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Rogers v. Corbett

August 23, 2006

MARAKAY J. ROGERS, ESQUIRE, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA; THE GREEN PARTY OF PENNSYLVANIA, C/O PAUL TEESE, CHAIR; THE CONSTITUTION PARTY OF PENNSYLVANIA; KEN V. KRAWCHUK; HAGAN SMITH, APPELLANTS.
v.
THOMAS W. CORBETT, JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL OF PENNSYLVANIA; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, C/O OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF PENNSYLVANIA; GOVERNOR EDWARD G. RENDELL; PEDRO A. CORTES, SECRETARY OF COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. District Court No. 06-cv-00066 District Judge: Hon. John E. Jones, III.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roth, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued on July 10, 2006

Before: SMITH, ALDISERT, and ROTH, Circuit Judges

OPINION

Plaintiffs, a group of minor political parties and minor party nominees for state-wide office,*fn1 challenged the constitutionality of Section 2911 of the Pennsylvania election code, 25 PA. CONS. STAT. § 2911(b), as applied to minor political parties and their candidates. They moved for a preliminary injunction against Pedro A. Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The District Court denied the motion and plaintiffs appealed. For the reasons stated below, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court.

I. Background

Under Pennsylvania law, a political body is qualified as a political party when one of its candidates obtains a 2% level of support in the preceding general election. Specifically, 25 PA. CONS. STAT. § 2831(a) defines a political party as:

Any party or political body, one of whose candidates at the general election next preceding the primary polled in each of at least ten counties of the State not less than two per centum of the largest entire vote cast in each of said counties for any elected candidate, and polled a total vote in the State equal to at least two per centum of the largest entire vote cast in the State for any elected candidate, is hereby declared to be a political party within the State.

Pennsylvania law further distinguishes between political parties (a/k/a/ major political parties) and minor political parties. Minor political parties are political parties with registered membership of less than 15% of the state-wide registration for all political parties.*fn2

Political parties, i.e., at present the Republican and Democrat parties, place their candidates on the general election ballot via a primary system. 25 PA. CONS. STAT. § 2862. To appear on the ballot for the primary election, the Republican and Democrat candidates must get a prescribed number of signatures from individuals who are members of their respective parties. For example, a candidate for Governor must obtain 2,000 signatures. The winner of a plurality of votes in the primary is placed on the general election ballot as the candidate of his or her respective party.

Minor political parties, as well as political bodies not recognized as parties, place their candidates, and independent candidates place their names, on the general election ballot by nomination petitions. 25 PA. CONS. STAT. §§ 2872.2, 2911. To be placed on the general election ballot by a nomination petition, the candidate must obtain the signatures of a prescribed number of registered voters (regardless of party). The number of signatures must be equal to 2% of the vote total of the candidate who obtained the highest number of votes for state-wide office in the previous election.*fn3

Candidates have approximately five months to circulate nomination petitions. For the November 2006 general election, petitions can be circulated from March 8, 2006, until August 1, 2006. A signatory must be a qualified elector of Pennsylvania who has registered to vote either on or before the day he signs the nomination petition. A signatory need not be a member of a political party. A signatory may sign a minor party candidate's nomination petition even if he has signed a nomination petition in support of a Republican or Democrat or voted in a major party primary, but a signatory may sign a nomination petition in support of only one candidate for each office for which there is a vacancy.

Unfortunately for minor political parties, political bodies and independent candidates, Bob Casey, Jr., soundly defeated his challenger for State Treasurer in 2004 in the biggest voter turnout in Pennsylvania history. Consequently, the "largest entire vote cast for any elected candidate in the State at large" is larger this cycle than in previous election years, based on Casey's high total. As such, 2% of that total, the number of required ...


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