Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tosses Green Party Off State Ballot

September 17, 2020 by Dan McCue
In this Nov. 1, 2018 photo, Green Party gubernatorial candidate, Howie Hawkins, takes part in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Things aren’t exactly coming up roses for the Green Party and its presidential nominee, Howie Hawkins.

For the second time this week a state supreme court has denied the party’s bid for inclusion among the contenders on the November 2020 ballot.

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that would have allowed Hawkins to appear on the ballot.

It said the Green Party candidate for president did not strictly follow procedures for getting on the ballot.

The ruling, by a majority that included all five Democrats on the court, is considered a victory for supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden who feared Hawkins would siphon off just enough potential Biden supporters to hand the state to President Donald Trump in November.

Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 44,292 votes in Pennsylvania in 2016, or less than 1 percentage point. The Green Party’s nominee that year, Jill Stein, drew slightly more votes than that, 49,941.

Democratic party activists challenged what they said were disqualifying irregularities in how the Green Party filed affidavits for the presidential candidate that are supposed to accompany paperwork with at least 5,000 voter signatures to get on the ballot.

Initially, Green Party officials faxed in an affidavit of candidacy for a placeholder candidate — under whose nominal candidacy the party gathered the signatures — by the Aug. 3 deadline. It was submitted separately from the voter signature paperwork, which was delivered by hand.

Hawkins also submitted his affidavit to take the place of the placeholder candidate, a routine procedure used by third parties, given the necessity of gathering signatures before the party formally nominates a candidate.

But the court ruled that the law requires an original copy of the affidavit to be submitted with the signature paperwork.

Because the placeholder candidate didn’t properly submit the affidavit, Hawkins’ affidavit is nullified, the majority opinion said.

The two Republicans on the court disagreed, suggesting that a lower court could have been asked whether to allow the placeholder candidate to immediately submit a substituted, original affidavit.

However, even in dissent, they did not say Hawkins should be allowed on the ballot.

With the end of the case, elections officials can finally start getting ballots printed and mailed to voters.

On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay on mailing of absentee ballots after considering whether the Green Party presidential candidate should be added.

The decision to leave Hawkins off the ballot set the more than 1,850 election clerks in the state into overdrive as they worked to meet a Thursday deadline in state law to mail ballots to the more than 1 million voters who had requested them so far.

Absentee ballots can be requested until Oct. 29, but election officials have urged voters to act more quickly given the expected large numbers and delays with the mail. 

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