Our opinion: Stacking the deck

Pennsylvania is a de facto two-party state, and state election law is written to make sure it stays that way.

What, you say? What about the third-party candidates and independents you hear about running for state office?

Sure, they can run, but if their candidacy has a chance at derailing the chances of a Republican or Democrat in a close race, they can be intimidated into pulling out of an election rather that risk financial ruin as the result of state law.

After having garnered more than 16,000 signatures on election petitions to appear on the ballot in a state-wide election, 14,000 more than a Republican or Democrat, they face a potential legal gauntlet of lawyers and party workers ready to pounce on those petitions, looking for any reason to challenge the validity of signatures.

Generally poorly funded, the minor party generally lacks the resources to hire its own attorneys and the ability to recruit as many volunteers to defend its signatures.

Here’s where the financial intimidation comes in.

Should the minor party lose in the process, it can be forced to pay the expenses of the party which issued the challenge. That expense alone, which could run in excess of six figures, is enough to make independents and third-party candidates think twice or even three times about jumping in a race where one or both of the major parties believe a third candidate could be a spoiler for their own office hopeful.

It has already happened on more than one occasion over that past several years.

Election laws should be written to ensure fairness and encourage participation in government, not limit it, and we believe that Pennsylvania’s election codes should be change to reflect that mission.