Harrisburg — Green Party Presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala delivered more than 35,000 signatures to the PA Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation Tuesday afternoon, one day earlier than required by the state.
The state’s Green Party Chair and former Senate nominee Carl Romanelli joined Stein and Honkala for a press conference before delivering the stack of signed petitions.
Romanelli said that earning ballot access doesn’t usually necessitate a press conference, but due to the remarkably stringent nature of PA law regarding the matter, the Green Party’s success is cause for celebration.
Honkala, a native Pennsylvanian, joined him in thanking the grassroots supporters who have been tirelessly pounding the pavement to get the necessary signatures. In fact, the party earned nearly two-thirds of the required signatures in just the last two weeks.
Having accepted the VPl nomination earlier this month, Honkala said, “I’m proud to be here, and to be on the ballot with a woman who stands for courage.”
Stein said, “We are providing a real choice for everyday people; a choice of, by and for the people; a choice not paid for by Wall Street.”
To win a spot for their name on the PA ballot, independents and third-party candidates have to meet some steep requirements. One of which is to garner enough signatures to equal 2 percent of the highest number of votes received by a candidate in a state election the previous year.
Signatures can be collected from any voter, regardless of party, so long as he or she has not signed for another candidate for the same office.
“It was into the late hours of the evening that people were having their petitions notarized in my living room,” Honkala said.
This year the Green Party of PA was required to submit 20,601 notarized signatures. The number equals two percent of those received by David Wecht during his 2011 run for state Superior Court.
Democratic and Republican candidates must submit only 2,000 signatures.
“In contrast to Republican and Democratic candidates who are doing everything they can to avoid bringing substance into this campaign, we are giving Americans the alternatives and solutions they have been clamoring for,” Stein said.
“Current campaigns are confining themselves to details that are not at the core of the problems Americans are facing,” she continued. The healthcare, energy and environmental crises and oppressive student debt are just a few of the problems to which Stein alluded to and later addressed.
The Presidential nominee, who is also a physician, teacher of internal medicine and environmental-health advocate, described the current polarized state of American government with pressing urgency.
“No one is safe under this paradigm of ‘politics as usual,’” she said.
To avoid being struck from the ballot by a court challenge, the Green Party submitted about 15,000 extra signatures. It is common practice for candidates to submit twice as many signatures as are required.
Romanelli’s failed attempt to run for U.S. Senate in 2006 demonstrated the extreme challenge that PA law presents to third-party candidates. Romanelli, who was required to turn in 67,070 signatures, handed in over 100,000, but was still kept off the ballot by lawyers representing the Democratic Party and candidate Bob Casey.
These candidates also run the risk of having to pay the legal fees of challengers if their signatures fail to hold up in court. Due to this part of PA law, Romanelli currently owes over $80,000 in legal fees to the Democratic Party. He is refusing to pay them.
The roadblocks thrown up by Democrats are based on the concern that a Green Party candidate on the ballot would syphon votes away from their candidate, in this case Obama. To wit, in 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Naders received 97,421 votes in Florida; Al Gore lost the state (and thus, the election) to George W. Bush by 537 votes.
The PA Democratic Party and President Barack Obama’s campaign didn’t respond to an inquiry about whether they were considering a legal challenge to Dr. Stein’s petitions.
Romanelli said that politicians from the two main parties, along with their big-wig corporate backers, bully third-party candidates. “They are kicking around the people who want a better day for our country.”
At this, he gestured toward a small group of volunteers who had contributed to the Green Party’s efforts and had joined the candidates to deliver the signatures.