- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:

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STATE ELECTION LAW RESTRICTS VOTERS’ CHOICES

In November’s election, will you have to choose between candidates only from the two major parties or will smaller parties get candidates onto the ballot, too?

That question will be decided soon. The deadline for the Green and Libertarian Party candidates to file signatures to get on the ballot is Friday.

If past is prologue, Pennsylvania voters will have less choice than those in many other states.

State laws here pose some high hurdles to candidates trying to get on, or stay on, the ballot.

The issue isn’t so much the number of signatures required. This election cycle, would-be candidates running statewide had five months to collect the necessary 16,638 signatures from registered voters.

That’s more than eight times the 2,000 signatures major party candidates have to get. But in a state of almost 13 million people, 16,000-plus signatures is not an unreasonable test, or an insurmountable barrier.

The biggest hurdles come at the next steps in the process.

Once the signatures are turned in, sharp-eyed political partisans and their lawyers typically go to work. If they think the minor party candidate’s presence on the ballot hurts their prospects, they’ll comb through the signatures, looking for any excuse to invalidate them and knock the candidate off the ballot.

In the signature review process, courts may require the minor party to provide a small army of volunteers or staff to be present, for work that can take weeks.

If the minor party loses and gets tossed off the ballot, it can be forced to pay the attackers’ legal fees, a risk that can exceed $100,000.

That actually happened to presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2004 and the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006.

The legal standard for imposing fees in these cases is fearfully vague - whatever a court concludes is “just.” No proof the candidate committed or condoned fraud or cheating is required.

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