PA: Movement Builds to Reform Ballot Access Law and the Primary System

Since the state's primary elections in May, in which 80% of voters opted not to exercise the franchise, calls to open the primary process continue to mount in Pennsylvania.  One state rep, Democrat Eugene DePasquale, has proposed a package of reforms aimed at increasing voter turnout and leveling the political playing field for Independent and third party candidates.  From Politics PA:
Though Depasquale stated he has not yet faced opposition from any single group,“the current two-party structure is against the reforms." The big message that DePasquale wanted to express is that regardless of party or affiliation “the ‘minor candidates’ should be part of the debate.”

Independents are joining third parties in pressing Pennsylvania’s closed primary system. On the forefront of this growing movement is State Rep. Eugene DePasquale’s introduction of of a four-bill reform package, known as the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA).

According to the news release the first bill would allow voters registered as independents to cast ballots in Pennsylvania’s primary elections. The second bill would require corporations to obtain shareholder approval before contributing an annual aggregate sum exceeding $10,000.

The third piece of legislation allows all voters to cast ballots up to 15 days in advance of Election Day in both the primary and general elections. The fourth and final bill in the package would make general election competition among all parties a reality by equalizing the ability of Independent and third-party candidates to run for public office in Pennsylvania.
In the press release, DePasquale notes the discriminatory character of Pennsylvania's ballot access regime:
"The Voters' Choice Act would give greater freedom of choice to our voters by making it much less difficult for independent and third-party candidates to get on the November ballot," DePasquale said. "The VCA would change the way a third party is legally defined and remove the too-high barrier of third parties, giving general election voters more choice and strengthening competition."
Independents need to gather ten times more signatures than their Republican and Democratic counterparts to obtain ballot access.  In 2010, Democratic and Republican party activists succeeded in purging every single third party and independent candidate for statewide office from the ballot by vowing to challenge their ballot access petitions in court, and threatening them with hefty legal fees.   

The Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition – which includes the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Constitution Party, the America First Party, the Reform Party, the Prohibition Party, the Unified Independent Party, the New American Independent Party and the 2004 Ralph Nader campaign – is a strong supporter of the measures introduced by DePasquale, as is Independent Pennsylvanians.


TiradeFaction said...

I wonder if successful, if they will remain together and organize around other useful reforms for third parties and indies, such as debate access and local media time? I'd like to see organized efforts around those reforms too.

d.eris said...

I hope so. If the Ballot Access Coalition were successful on this front and then just disbanded, that would be a major strategic blunder. It'd be a crying shame to lose all that momentum.

The Independent Pennsylvanians, otoh, are the local chapter of the CUIP, i.e.