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‘Minor’ Political Parties Sue Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - Pennsylvania places unconstitutional burdens on candidates who are not Democrats or Republicans, the Constitution, Green and Libertarian Parties say in Federal Court. They say the state has written discriminatory distinctions between "minor" and "major" parties into its Election Code.

The complaint states: "The Pennsylvania Election Code ... imposes unavoidable and severe burdens on any candidate for public office who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and thereby operates to freeze the political status quo in Pennsylvania. ...

"(T)here components of the Pennsylvania Election Code combine to impose such burdens. First, the Election Code distinguishes between 'Major Party' candidates - i.e., Republicans and Democrats - and 'Minor Party' candidates - i.e., candidates of all other political parties - and allows Major Party candidates access to the general election ballot by means of publicly funded primary elections, but requires Minor Party and independent candidates to submit nomination petitions. Second, the Election Code authorizes private parties to challenge the validity of Minor Party and independent candidates' nomination petitions, and authorizes the court, in its discretion and without limitation, to tax litigation costs and attorneys fees against the defending candidates. Third, although the Election Code allows Minor Party and independent candidates to avoid the taxation of such costs and fees by writing as write-in candidates, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, by and through Defendants Secretary [of the Commonwealth Pedro] Cortes, does not ensure that votes case for such candidates are counted. ...

"The Pennsylvania Election Code does not merely threaten Minor Party and independent candidates with such burdens, but actually imposes them."

Plaintiffs demand declaratory judgment, an injunction and costs. They are represented by Oliver Hall with the Center for Competitive Democracy of Washington, D.C.

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