Libertarian ticket still up in the air in Pennsylvania

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September 15, 2012

By Maresa Strano


HARRISBURG, PA: Pennsylvania's major party tickets have been in the rear view mirror since Spring. Yet as of September 15, there are a handful of Republican and Democratic nominees still uncertain about their third party general election competition. Causing the holdup is a series of legal challenges aimed at disqualifying Libertarian candidates running for state executive and legislative offices, based on signature errors made in the petition nominating process.[1]

After four weeks of review by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, roughly 13,000 signatures remain in contention. Should the challengers appeals fail to stand up, the party will be a mere 620 signatures away from the reaching the 20,601 necessary for ballot qualification.[2] The coalition of challengers want to disqualify 11,000 signatures for election law violations like listing an address different from a voter's registration, or omissions relating to the date and year marked beside a petition signature.[1]

Among the candidates hoping to appear on the Libertarian ticket in Pennsylvania this November is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the party's 2012 Presidential nominee, who has already been cleared for the general election ballot in 47 states plus the District of Columbia. Johnson is joined by Libertarian candidates for other statewide offices that include U.S. Senate nominee Rayburn Smith, nominees for attorney general and state auditor Marakay Rogers and Betsy Summers.[3] Pennsylvania is already under the microscope this fall as the whole country awaits the state Supreme Court ruling on the new controversial voter-ID law, which was passed last year by Gov. Tom Corbett and Republican lawmakers, without the blessing of a single Democratic member of the legislature, and set to go into effect in the general election. Despite the tension, secretary of the commonwealth Carol Aichele, the state's chief elections official, says the attention surrounding voter-ID and contested third party candidates could yield "the biggest voter turnout we've ever had in Pennsylvania."[4]

A three-judge panel heard arguments from both sides this week and ruled 2-1 in favor of the Libertarians on the mismatched addresses issue, certifying approximately 9,000 contested voter signatures, but also disqualified nearly 1,500 voters who omitted the year from the date they signed the petition. After the court issued its decision, the challengers and Libertarians stated intention to jointly appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.[2]

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