Libertarian Gary Johnson Wins First Ballot Fight; GOP to Appeal
A Pa. Court ruled that Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson has enough petition signatures to appear on the ballot in Pennsylvania, but Republicans are expected to appeal the decision by the end of the day Friday.
Commonwealth Court judges sided with Johnson by a margin of 2-1 on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. They ruled that about 9,000 of the candidate’s petition signatures are valid despite the fact that voters’ home addresses from the petitions did not match the addresses listed in the voting file.
Two people with knowledge of the petition challenge – which has been coordinated with the Pa. Republican Party – said an appeal was in the process of being filed Friday afternoon. Both said the move is typical in such disputes; state law gives litigants a presumptive right to appeal any Commonwealth Court decision.
Update: PAGOP Spokeswoman Valarie Caras said the party supports the appeal.
“The Republican Party of Pennsylvania supports the objectors appealing the ruling issued by the Commonwealth Court because the bottom line is that not only were the Libertarian Party’s nominating petitions riddled with errors, duplicate signatures and in some cases, blatant fraud, the Commonwealth Court’s recent ruling will have significant consequences on the integrity of our Commonwealth’s ballot access process,” she said.
Johnson served as Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, and briefly sought the Republican nomination for President this year. A fiscal conservative, he supports the decriminalization of marijuana. He is scheduled to attend a rally at West Chester University in suburban Philadelphia on Monday, kicking off a national tour of college campuses.
Pennsylvania’s ballot access rules for 3rd party and independent candidates are among the strictest in the nation. Johnson needed 20,601 signatures for his name to appear on the ballot. His campaign turned in 49,000, but many thousands of them have been ruled invalid for other reasons so far during this challenge. Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney needed only 2,000 each.
Another Libertarian candidate, Rayburn Smith, is also being challenged. He’s running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Tom Smith.
Johnson is on the ballot in 47 states; challenges are pending in Pa. as well as Michigan and Oklahoma.
Johnson’s candidacy has worried some Republicans who fear that the fiscal conservative could siphon votes away from Romney. It could potentially cost Romney the Presidency in the case of a narrow election – particularly given the warm reception Johnson has received from disaffected supporters of former candidate Ron Paul.
A similar scenario played out in Florida in 2000, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received about 20,000 votes. Democrat Al Gore went on to lose to George W. Bush by about 500 votes.
Speaking of the Green Party, its nominee, Dr. Jill Stein of New York, will also appear on Pennsylvania’s ballot. Her campaign said that her petition signatures were not challenged.
Update 2: Stein’s campaign says she is on the ballot in 37 states plus D.C. and that litigation is pending in 7 more. “This level of ballot access by a Third Party has been unheard of in recent years, said Chris Robinson of the Pa. Green Party.