Pa. party wins appeal of filing fee lawsuit

Pa. party wins appeal of filing fee lawsuit

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld a lower court ruling Sept. 11.
by Eric Prindle†

Wed 10/01/03†
GreenPages, Vol 7, No.3

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld a lower court ruling Sept. 11 when it ruled that the state of Pennsylvania cannot require candidates to pay filing fees to get on the ballot if doing so would constitute a financial hardship.

The suit was brought in 2000 on behalf of candidates John Stith for state representative, Thomas Linzey for attorney general, the Green Party of Pennsylvania, Green voter Will Donovan and several other candidates who later dropped themselves from the suit when they could not demonstrate inability to pay the filing fee.

The National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), which brought the case to court, seeks to “challenge the wealth primary” by establishing the right of candidates and voters to participate in the political process regardless of financial resources.

“Any financial hurdle placed in the way of people who want to run for office, or support people for office, violates the equal protection provisions of the constitution,” said Pennsylvania attorney Jordan Yeager, who joined NVRI in bringing the suit. “Money plays a big enough role in the electoral process as it is.”

In this case at least, the court agreed.

“If a ballot access scheme, such as the one here, imposes a mandatory filing fee but fails to provide an alternative means of ballot access, such as signature collection, that scheme constitutes a severe burden on the rights of indigent candidates and their supporters,” Judge Jane Roth said in her opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel.

Pennsylvania election law provides no alternative to the filing fee. (In addition to the fee, all candidates must collect signatures.) Roth suggested that the state legislature change the law so that individual cases do not have to be repeatedly considered by the courts.

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