The Simple Reason County Distribution Requirements for Statewide Petitions Violate “One Person One Vote”

As noted below, on June 30, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Stengel imposed a county distribution requirement for Pennsylvania statewide minor party and independent candidate petitions. No other state has county distribution requirements for statewide candidate or party petitions, because they violate “one person, one vote.”

The Fifth U.S. House district of Pennsylvania has all or part of 15 counties. Thus, the voters of the 15th district have the power to place a statewide candidate on the ballot, all by themselves. By contrast, the people of Philadelphia, which has enough people to be entitled to two entire U.S. House districts and part of a third, cannot place a statewide candidate on the ballot all by themselves, because to do that takes voters from 10 counties (for some offices).

Thus, Judge Stengel’s order gives more political power to the people of the 5th district, relative to the people of Philadelphia, even though Philadelphia is much more populous. This is a theoretical point but a very significant point. Judge Stengel has undermined the principle that is responsible for the redistricting revolution of the 1960’s, which ended favoritism for sparsely-populated areas in districting.

Better for America Says it will have Qualified in Five States in Next Few Days

Better for America says it will be on the ballot in Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, New Jersey, and New Mexico in the next few days (it has already submitted its party petition in New Mexico). The group still hasn’t found a presidential candidate. But the procedures it is using in Alaska, Delaware and New Mexico are party procedures, so no candidate need be named on the petition. Iowa and New Jersey permit substitution for president and vice-president, so the group is using stand-ins. The New Jersey stand-in procedure is unique. A group that uses a stand-in must later do a second petition, but the deadline for the second petition is in September, and the state only requires 800 signatures in any event. See this story.

Pennsylvania Statewide Requirement for 2016 Will be 5,000 Signatures, with Severe Distribution Requirement for Statewide State Office

On June 30, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Stengel issued an order in Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v Cortes, e.d., cv-12-2726. It says that for 2016, statewide petitions in Pennsylvania will need exactly 5,000 signatures. If the petition has candidates for the three statewide state offices that are up this year (Attorney General, Auditor, and Treasurer), they also need at least 250 signatures from each of five counties. If they do not, the presidential and U.S. Senate candidates named on that petition would be safe, but candidates for the three statewide offices would not be on the ballot.

It is bizarre for Judge Stengel to impose a county distribution requirement this year, because such a requirement does not exist in the statutory law (although it does for primary petitions), and the judge has been informed that there are 16 precedents striking down county distribution requirements, including one in Pennsylvania in 1979.

Iowa Supreme Court Says No Ex-Felons Can Register

On June 30, the Iowa Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote, interpreted the Iowa Constitution to mean that ex-felons cannot vote. The Constitution says persons convicted of crimes of moral turpitude cannot register. The Court ruled “moral turpitude” is just another term for “felony”.

See this story. The story has a link to the decision. Thanks to the Election Law Blog for the link.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says One of its Past Ballot Access Decisions was Erroneous

On June 23, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in “In re Nomination Petition of Joseph Vodvarka”, no. 37 MAP 2016. The 22-page opinion explains why, on April 19, it voted to put Joseph Vodvarka back on the Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate. The Court in April had put him on the ballot but had not explained why. The June 23 decision explains its reasoning.

Vodvarka needed 2,000 signatures. Whether he had enough valid depended on whether signatures are valid if the signer’s address on the petition doesn’t match his or her address in the voter registration rolls. The June 23 decision says those signatures are valid, assuming both addresses are in the same county. The June 23 opinion also says that back in 2001, when the same court came to a contrary decision, it had been in error. The erroneous decision from 2001 was “In re nomination petition of Flaherty.” The June 23 opinion says, “Flaherty’s rationale was in error…Unfortunately, in Flaherty, this Court failed to identify the changes to Pennsylvania’s voter registration laws…To the extent (if any) that our subsequent decisions in Nader and Gales are inconsistent with the present decision, they are also overturned.”