On July 14, the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of PA, ruled against the Green Party’s request for a temporary waiver of some ballot access requirements. The Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA, https://www.gpofpa.org/) Steering Committee is calling for volunteers and launching a two-week flurry of petition activity to place Green candidates on the ballot. The Green Party had sought relief from the Court before the August 3 deadline for nominating petitions, but the Court ruled that granting relief during a deadly global pandemic would “seriously and irreparably harm the State.”
The Federal Court ruling was in response to a joint lawsuit from the GPPA, the Libertarian Party of PA and the Constitution Party of PA regarding the ballot access laws of the Commonwealth. The three plaintiff parties had filed to request a waiver of petitioning requirements this year in light of the COVID-19 emergency. Petitioning is a state requirement of all candidates who file to appear on the ballot. It involves collecting physical signatures from voters that live in the candidate’s district on a paper petition form. The plaintiffs argued that collecting physical signatures from voters is incompatible with accepted COVID-19 safety guidelines as well as the Governor’s own mandates and orders. They asked for a waiver this year in order to protect the public health and safety during a pandemic.
Lawyers representing the Wolf administration and the Democratic Party argued in court that the Governor’s stay at home orders and mandates did not apply to ballot access petitioning and that the GPPA should have been petitioning in public spaces even during the “red phase” of COVID-19 response. Unfortunately, Judge Edward G. Smith of the U.S. District for Eastern PA largely agreed with that assessment, determining that the risk from COVID-19 to volunteers and voters was only “intermediate,” and therefore the parties should be required to meet all typical ballot access requirements this year despite the pandemic.
“It feels like the governor is playing politics with our lives,” said Garret Wassermann, team lead for GPPA’s Green Wave committee and Green Party candidate for PA State Representative in District 45. “We should not need to put volunteers and the general public at risk just to get on the ballot. How is this democracy?”
“We can close schools, shut down businesses, move entire primary elections and switch to mail-in ballots due to COVID-19, but allowing more candidates into the November election would somehow irreparably harm the Commonwealth?” asked Timothy Runkle, Green Party candidate for PA State Treasurer. “According to the governor, the Democratic Party, and the courts, there's no potential harm in placing our volunteers door-to-door, face-to-face in the midst of a pandemic. The public's fears, concerns, and precautions are apparently not relevant.”
"In 2020, all across the U.S. we have seen the COVID-19 pandemic used as a voter suppression tactic from closing polling places to canceling elections. Here now is an even greater affront to democracy as the Wolf administration and a judge have decided to restrict Pennsylvania voters choices on the ballot. This decision by the Court amounts to legalized election fraud by the two ruling parties,” said Alan Smith, co-chair of GPPA. “Right now over 80 seats for the PA General Assembly, about 40 percent of the House and about 25 percent of the Senate, are running unopposed because of the measures in place to keep people off the ballot. What good is our vote if we don't get a say in who we get to vote for? Being able to be on the ballot is crucial for true democracy to take place."
GPPA is working with the Hawkins/Walker campaign, the 2020 Green Party nominees for president and vice president, to develop a strategy for meeting the ballot access requirements as safely as possible. The effort includes outfitting volunteers with face masks, gloves, and sanitizing equipment, as well as utilizing phone banking and other media methods to reach voters to let them know when a petitioner is in their area or how to mail a petition in to keep face-to-face contact to a minimum.
“We’ve never had to petition during a pandemic before, there is no roadmap or historical guide,” said Wassermann. “Other states have had their signature requirements reduced or even eliminated, or switched to electronic petitioning, but PA apparently does not believe in making any changes to protect public safety and democracy during a pandemic.”
Volunteers can request a petition from GPPA and sign up for canvassing at https://www.gpofpa.org/request_petition_by_mail. Questions can also be directed to Tim Runkle and the Green Wave committee at [email protected], or your local Green Party. A list of Green Party locals is available at: https://www.gpofpa.org/counties. Donations toward petitioning costs, including COVID protective gear this year, are also welcomed at https://www.gpofpa.org/gw_donations. Volunteers can also sign up with the Hawkins/Walker campaign to help contact voters at https://howiehawkins.us/phone-banking-info/.
The Green Party of PA (GPPA, https://www.gpofpa.org/) is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party’s Four Pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org or email [email protected]. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook and Twitter.