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No Automatic Ballot Placement for Third Parties in Pennsylvania

July 28, 2020, 8:41 PM

The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania and other minor and independent political party candidates aren’t entitled to automatic ballot placement for the November 2020 general election because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Third Circuit said Tuesday.

The political parties and their candidates have had ample time to meet Pennsylvania’s signature requirements, which were already reduced by 90% based on an order in another case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said in a per curiam opinion.

The Aug. 3 deadline to meet the state’s signature threshold isn’t a severe burden on the First or Fourteenth Amendment rights of either the parties or their candidates related to political participation, the court said.

The ballot petition rules survive intermediate scrutiny because Pennsylvania has sufficiently important interests in avoiding ballot clustering, ensuring that only viable candidates are presented to voters, and that elections are conducted efficiently.

The appeals court upheld what it called a “thorough and well-reasoned” decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denying the political parties’ request for automatic ballot placement.

It also upheld the judge’s decision to not block the state from enforcing the election rules during the course of the lawsuit, finding the political parties are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their challenge.

The Green Party of Pennsylvania, the Constitution Party of Pennsylvania, and individual political candidates joined the Libertarian Party’s challenge.

Judges Thomas L. Ambro, Patty Shwartz, and Stephanos Bibas considered the matter.

Myers Brier & Kelly represented Pennsylvania. Anderson & Labovitz LLC, the Center for Competitive Democracy, and Mark R. Brown represented the political parties.

The case is Libertarian Party of Pa. v. Wolf, 3d Cir., No. 20-2481, 7/28/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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