by Tom Linzey, Shippenburg (PA), legal advisory, ASGP
A hearty thanks to all the national greens that assisted us here in Pennsylvania with the defeat of Senate Bill 200, a bill which would have doubled or tripled ballot access requirements for third parties and independent candidates. If this bill had been in place in 1996, circulators for the presidential campaign would have been forced to gather 99,000 signatures for ballot access. Responding to grassroots pressure, Governor Thomas Ridge vetoed the Bill and sent a veto message to the Pennsylvania legislature.
Lobbying heavily against the bill was Richard Winger of Ballot Access News and Ralph Nader, who sent an especially strong letter to Governor Ridge, urging him to veto the bill. Winger was instrumental in getting an article in the New York Times that blasted the two party hold on Pennsylvania politics.
The Greens have drafted a Ballot Access Bill which reduces signature requirements in this state, and have presented it to several legislators for sponsorship. Known as the Voters Choice Act, it would reduce the signature requirement to one-tenth of 1 percent. If the legislation had been in place last year, the signature requirement would have plunged from 40,000 to 4,200. (Republicans and Democrats are required to net only 2,000 signatures to get on their respective primary ballots.) The bill likewise would slasd the signature requirement for local contests and ease restrictions for third-parties to become recognized by the state.