Democrats in Pennsylvania succeeded Thursday in bouncing Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins from the Nov. 3 ballot.
That could prove critical in the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein won almost 50,000 votes in Pennsylvania, and Trump ultimately won the state by just 44,000 votes, or less than 0.7% of the total. Pennsylvania is again expected to be a critical battleground state in determining who wins the White House.
The state Supreme Court overruled Commonwealth Court Judge J. Andrew Crompton, who last week said Hawkins could stay on the ballot but removed his vice presidential running mate, Angela Walker.
The legal challenge had delayed the printing of mail ballots, which counties otherwise would have begun sending this week.
Now the scramble to do so begins. There is no one single ballot, and county elections officials have to finalize hundreds or even thousands of ballot designs.
Some counties, including Montgomery and Chester Counties, had begun to move forward with the Green Party on the ballot, with the hope of being able to quickly print and mail ballots once the challenge was resolved. (It’s easier to redesign a ballot to remove a candidate than to add one.) Those counties will now scramble to redesign ballots so they can be sent to voters.
The Green Party tripped up on the state’s paperwork procedures when it filed nominating petitions on Aug. 3 for two stand-in candidates from Pennsylvania — Elizabeth Faye Scroggin for president and Neal Taylor Gale for vice president. No candidate affidavit was filed by the deadline for Gale, as required by state law. Scroggin faxed her affidavit to the Department of State by the deadline, but there was a delay in printing it.
The Supreme Court, in a split verdict, ruled that “Scroggin failed to comply with the Election Code’s strict mandate that she append an original affidavit to her nominating paper.” A defect “fatal" to her nomination disqualified Hawkins as her replacement, the ruling said.
Green Party attorney Larry Otter said this is probably the end for Hawkins' fight in Pennsylvania, though he needed to check with the party to see what, if anything, it wants to do next.
“This is the end of the state road," Otter said. "The only other option is federal court.”
Pittsburgh attorney Clifford Levine, who has done legal work for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, filed the challenge last month on behalf of Paul Stefano, chair of the Lawrence County Democratic Party, and Tony Thomas, who ran as a Democrat for City Council in Wilkes-Barre last year.
An average of polling compiled by Real Clear Politics gives Biden a 4.3% lead in Pennsylvania, well within the margins of error for some pollilng.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party did not respond to requests for comment.