Pennsylvania legislators would do well to adopt a New Year’s resolution to comply with the U.S. Constitution. The “Keystone State” is the worst in the nation for unconstitutional election laws on the books–laws designed to deny access to the ballot for minor party candidates.
When a law is declared unconstitutional, the normal course of business in most states is to study the court decision, draft legislation, hold hearings, and draft new laws that conform to the Constitution. However, the Pennsylvania legislature’s defiance of federal court orders has resulted in its embarrassing status as a “footnote state” in the law books. Publishers of statutes have had to insert footnotes in the law citing the controlling court orders where void laws remain on the books.
Gus Hall, a presidential candidate of the Communist Party, brought suit in 1984 against Pennsylvania’s early May nomination petition deadline. The case was settled by consent decree extending the deadline until the first day of August. Six presidential elections have come and gone since Hall took the state to court and still the legislature has failed to amend the law keeping alive the court order of U.S. District Judge Louis Bechtle.
The Patriot Party went to court against Pennsylvania in 1993 over the minor party signature requirement in odd years. The federal courthouse in Allentown is named for U.S. District Judge Edward Cahn, whose court order still trumps the remaining void statute.