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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: January 23, 2015 10:59 AM
From: Senator Mike Folmer
To: All Senate members
Subject: Reintroduction of the Voters' Choice Act
I plan to reintroduce my “Voters’ Choice Act” to eliminate unfair hurdles to ballot access for minor party and independent candidates. This measure was previously Senate Bill 195 cosponsored by Senators Folmer, Teplitz, Ferlo, Boscola, Baker, Williams, Yudichak, Blake, Dinniman, Ward, and Vance.

No state makes it more difficult for minor party and independent candidates to run for public office than Pennsylvania; current law can require them to collect as many as 34 times the number of signatures as the major party candidates.

To appear on the November ballot for any office in a given district, minor party and independent candidates must submit a minimum number of valid signatures equal to two percent (2%) of the largest vote cast for an elected candidate in the previous statewide election. Meanwhile, major party candidates automatically qualify for the November ballot with no signature threshold – they collect signatures only to appear in the Primary Election (minor party or independent candidates do not participate in Primary Elections).

During the 2014 gubernatorial election, Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor were required to collect 2,000 voter signatures to appear on the Primary Election ballot (1,000 signatures for Lieutenant Governor). Meanwhile, minor party and independent candidates were required to submit 16,639 signatures.

During that same election cycle, independent and third party candidates needed:
  • 3,124 – 6,364 petition signatures to get on the ballot for Congress (the number varied by district; the major party candidates needed 1,000 for the Primary)
  • 500 – 626 petition signatures for State Senate (again, varied by district; the major party candidates needed only 500 in the Primary)
  • 300 – 507 petition signatures for State House (varied by district; major party candidates needed 300 in the Primary)
My proposed legislation would require:

  1. An independent candidate to collect the same amount of signatures as the major party candidates in order to appear on the November ballot
  2. A “minor political party” to garner between 0.05 and 15 percent of the total number of registered voters in the Commonwealth as of 21 days prior to the date of the Primary Election in order to qualify as a “political party”
Contrary to popular belief, my proposed Election Law changes have not produced “ballot clutter” in other states. My plan is modeled after Delaware where, during the 2012 Presidential Election, they had the same four presidential candidates on the ballot as Pennsylvania: Democrat Barack Obama, Republican Mitt Romney, Green Party Jill Stein, and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Introduced as SB495