Judge rules Libertarians can stay on Pa. ballot

October 10, 2012 4:38:35 PM PDT
A state judge Wednesday handed a hard-won victory to the Libertarian Party, ruling that its candidates for president and three statewide offices can stay on the Pennsylvania ballot and rejecting a Republican Party-backed challenge.

Commonwealth Court Senior Judge James Gardner Colins ended a tedious line-by-line review of tens of thousands of voters' signatures to determine whether they were authentic and met the letter of the law. The process lasted more than seven weeks.

The judge, who issued the ruling from Philadelphia, said lawyers for both sides ultimately agreed that the Libertarians had collected at least 20,730 valid signatures, or 129 more than the law requires for third-party candidates running statewide.

Colins rejected the challengers' motions to invalidate 124 signatures that their lawyers had previously accepted as valid, saying the motions were filed too late and failed to justify the request. Even if they had been granted, he said, the Libertarians still would have had more than enough valid signatures.

The lawyer representing the Libertarians did not respond to email and voice-mail requests for comment.

Mike Barley, the executive director of the state Republican Party, said he did not know whether the challenges would appeal the ruling but noted the large number of signatures that were invalidated as a result of the review.

"They submitted 50,000 signatures and we knocked well over 50 percent of them off," Barley said.

The ruling keeps Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson on the Pennsylvania ballot, as well as four other candidates. They are Rayburn Smith, a retired postal worker running for U.S. Senate; Marakay Rogers, a York lawyer running for attorney general; and Wilkes-Barre businesswoman Betsy Summers, who is running for auditor general.

The Green Party faced similar signatures requirement but succeeded in getting its candidates on the Pennsylvania ballot without any challenges to its petitions.

In August, the Constitution Party abandoned its bid to put its presidential ticket on Pennsylvania's ballot in the face of a challenge from the state GOP.

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