MINOR POLITICAL PARTY BALLOT ACCESS

by Julian Heicklen

July 18, 2000

Penn State University Main Gate, State College, PA

Article I, Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Constitution says: "Elections shall be free and equal; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of suffrage." Apparently that only applies to Republicans and Democrats. Other political parties are denied equal access to the ballot.

Primary elections are available only to major political parties. The law states otherwise, but the facts are that minor political parties are denied access to primary elections.

The PA law states that a minor political party can achieve major party status if it registers 15% or more of the voters in the state. That is a practical impossibility, because voters tend to register in parties that hold primary elections already. This law was made by Republicans and Democrats after they were major parties. No other party has come close to meeting this requirement, because it unattainable. Voters register with major parties, so that they can participate in primaries, even if their beliefs coincide with those of a minor party.

Pennsylvania Statute 25 P.S. §2831(b) says that county minor political parties can hold a primary, if one of their candidates receives at least 5% of the votes of the highest vote in the county. The Libertarian Party of Centre County met that goal in 1999, but was refused a primary by the PA Board of Elections in 2000.

The Libertarian Party of Centre County sued in Commonwealth Court, but was denied a trial. In a preliminary hearing, Judge Morgan issued an order supporting the Board of Elections. The state Supreme Court upheld this decision.

The Libertarian party of Centre County has filed suit against the Board of Elections in federal court, where the suit now is being heard.

The Board of Elections argues that the court has said that registration requirement "helps voters cast more meaningful votes because overcrowded ballots tend to confuse and frustrate voters." I notice that this requirement does not apply to candidates in major party primaries. Some of these primaries have a dozen candidates, but a general election ballot with three candidates might confuse and frustrate the voters. If the Court is really interested in reducing confusion and frustration, it should opt for a one-party system with one candidate for each office. Some countries have. Their voters are not confused. They hate their governments.

Meanwhile, minor political parties have to collect 22,000 signatures in Pennsylvania to get their candidates on the ballot in November 2000. I ask you to sign our nominating petition to help us get on the ballot. Signing a petition is not an endorsement nor does it commit you to anything. Thank you.