The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters.
The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules.
It was the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.
The latest decision is another blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.
In a different case Thursday, Pennsylvania’s highest court delivered a separate victory to Democrats, ruling in their favor on a number of mail-voting rules.
The court permitted voters to turn in ballots via drop box in addition to the U.S. Postal Service, allowed ballots to be returned up to three days after Election Day and blocked a Republican effort to allow partisan poll watchers to be stationed in counties where they do not live.
The ballot deadline decision requires ballots to be postmarked by Election Day, but it also allows ballots that arrive by Nov. 6 with no postmark to be presumed to have been mailed by Nov. 3 unless there is strong evidence to the contrary.
The court declined to rule with the Democrats on requiring election workers to give voters a chance to fix deficient ballots or count ballots that arrive without a secret envelope.
The case had begun in federal court, with a lawsuit from the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign seeking to overturn elements of Pennsylvania’s year-old mail-voting law. Democrats successfully argued for the case to be decided first at the state level.
In a third case, the state high court denied a group of voters’ request that third parties be permitted to collect and return ballots for voters — prompting praise from President Donald Trump on Twitter.
“We will be watching that the Democrats do not Ballot Harvest — a felony,” Trump tweeted. “In other words, the Republican Party won on the atrocious Ballot Harvesting Scam.”
The president neglected to mention that the largest ballot-harvesting scandal in recent years was run by a Republican operative in North Carolina in 2018 on behalf of a GOP congressional candidate.
In Wisconsin, the Green Party effort to get on the ballot was boosted by help from some Republicans and a prominent law firm that does work for the GOP. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court voted on a strict party line, with the court’s two Republicans partially dissenting, writing in a separate opinion that the Green Party ticket should have been given a chance to fix its paperwork.
In 2016, Donald Trump won both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, collected in each state. This year, the Green Party has qualified for the ballot in more than two dozen states, including such battlegrounds as Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Maine, Minnesota and Texas.
The Pennsylvania court’s decision came after it paused election preparations last week and blocked the secretary of state’s certification of the candidate list, rattling election officials who were ready to start mailing ballots to voters in response to a huge demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. Had the court ruled for the Green Party, officials would have had to scrap millions of ballots already printed and ready to be mailed out.
The Hawkins-Walker ticket was not the original slate that filed for candidacy in Pennsylvania; their names were substituted to replace Elizabeth Scroggin and Neal Gale.
But the court found that the paperwork for the original slate was insufficient, requiring Hawkins and Walker to be disqualified. Specifically, the party failed to submit affidavits in person signed by Scroggin and Gale, according to the court.
“That defect was fatal to Scroggin’s nomination and, therefore, to Hawkins’ substitution,” the court ruled.
The decision partially upheld a lower-court decision to remove Walker from the ballot, but it reversed that court’s decision to keep Hawkins on.
The Hawkins-Walker campaign manager, Andrea Mérida, decried the court ruling as “yet another example of the desperation” of Democrats.
“They expect the working class of this country to lie there and take whatever elites dole out,” Mérida said in a statement. “But the Green Party is here to stay. Deal with it, Democrats.”
The complaint against the Green Party’s candidacy was brought by two state Democratic voters, Paul Stefano and Tony Thomas. They were represented by Pittsburgh attorney Clifford Levine, a longtime election lawyer for Pennsylvania Democrats.