Rigging state electionsEdit

Source: Dimitri Vassilaros, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Friday, April 14, 2006

Welcome to the upside-down, surreal, twilight-zone world in a parallel universe of the almost familiar, but not quite, of U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III.

In the Rogers v. Cortes ballot-access case, Judge Jones could have leveled the playing field for political parties so elections would be "free and equal" as stipulated by the Pennsylvania Constitution; so no one would be denied "equal protection of the laws" as stipulated in the federal Constitution; and so voters would have more choices than the two miserable ones in those rare instances when the other party's sacrificial lamb runs against an incumbent.

In Jones' ruling last week, he was concerned about so-called ballot clutter but not about statewide candidates running as Democrats or Republicans only needing 2,000 signatures for the nomination petition -- while candidates of other parties this year need more than 67,000. And money to pay for it.

His second-most-bizarre statement was: "In essence then, it could be argued that major political party candidates are required to show a greater (emphasis original) amount of support than minor political candidates in order to appear on the general election ballot."

Even this life member of the Libertarian Party infuriated by the ruling concedes that, yes, it could be argued. But only by the breathtakingly insane.

In his most bizarre statement Jones ended by washing his hands of responsibility: "We are not however a super-legislature, but rather a court of law, and thus we decline to supplant our wisdom in place of that of the Commonwealth's elected officials."

But in December, Jones did not decline to supplant his wisdom in place of that of other elected officials in the commonwealth. Jones overturned the "breathtaking insanity" of the Dover Area School District board decision to include the Intelligent Design theory in the curriculum.

Mr. Jones declined to be interviewed for this column.

"Access is the essence of democracy," said attorney Sam Stretton, representing the plaintiff in the ballot case.

Pennsylvania is one of only two states demanding signatures -- and lots of them -- for petitions of so-called minor parties that otherwise qualified for ballot access, Mr. Stretton said. "This case is ripe for appellate review and the U.S. Supreme Court."

Jones should have consulted with Richard Winger, editor and publisher of Ballot Access News (, about so-called ballot clutter. When more than two names are listed, surely Pennsylvanians' heads explode.

"California had 135 candidates for governor in 2003 and the people had no problem with that at all," Mr. Winger said. "A recent election in Iraq involved 111 parties."

In the last three British House of Commons elections, eight parties on average were on the ballots. Ten signatures and a filing fee buy ballot access for a political party. Canada, with 12 parties, requires only 100 signatures for ballot access, Winger said.

Has the Weekly World News supermarket tabloid published stories about more than two ballot choices causing craniums to go kablooey?

Given the "wisdom" of the commonwealth's elected officials, the Legislature will level the playing field for all parties to create "free and equal" elections the day it takes any part of the state Constitution seriously.

Dimitri Vassilaros is a Trib editorial page columnist. His column appears Sundays, Mondays and Fridays. Call him at 412-380-5637. E-mail him at

Dimitri Vassilaros


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

503 Martindale Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15212

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