By Nick Rammell, Courthouse News Service, June 3rd, 2016:
PHILADELPHIA (CN) — The Third Circuit affirmed a district court ruling invalidating Pennsylvania’s ballot access rules, a decision that will make it easier for third-party candidates to appear on the state’s general election ballot in November.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed against the Commonwealth in May 2012 by three independent political parties, their respective chairmen, and a former Libertarian Party candidate for the U.S. Senate.
They argued that a confluence of rules governing how an independent candidate can qualify to appear on the Pennsylvania ballot and the potentially exorbitant court costs they face to defend the validity of candidate petition signatures is unconstitutionally burdensome.
Last year, a federal judge in Philadelphia invalidated the state’s ballot-qualification process.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel held the state’s election rules governing third-party ballot access were unconstitutional because they required both high numbers of petition signatures and carried the threat of high legal costs if a third-party candidate’s nominating signatures were found to be invalid.
The state appealed, but in doing so it didn’t challenge the substance of the decision.
Instead, it argued the decision should be overturned because the plaintiffs sued the wrong parties, and secondarily because the district court’s order was “incoherent on its face,” and therefore of no practical benefit.