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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: December 4, 2012 12:35 PM
From: Senator Mike Folmer
To: All Senate members
Subject: Voters' Choice Act (Previously SB 21)
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 21 cosponsored by: Piccola, Browne, Boscola, Baker, Earll and Ferlo.

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 last 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 the Primary Election).

During the 2010 gubernatorial election, Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor were required to collect 2,000 voter signatures to appear on the Primary Election ballot. Meanwhile, minor party and independent candidates were required to submit 19,082 signatures.

During the recent election cycle, independent and third party candidates needed:
  • 20,601 petition signatures to get on the statewide ballot (while the major party candidates needed just 1,000 for the Primary)
  • 1,000 – 1,961 petition signatures to get on the ballot for Congress (the number varied by district; the major party candidates needed 1,000 for the Primary)
  • 1,201 – 2,040 petition signatures for State Senate (again, varied by district; the major party candidates need only 500 in the Primary)
  • 300 – 458 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 2008 Presidential Election, they had seven presidential candidates (Democrat Barak Obama, Republican John McCain, and five minor party candidates). During the same election, Pennsylvania had four candidates: Democrat Obama, Republican McCain, Independent Nader, and Libertarian Barr.

Thank you.

Introduced as SB195