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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the removal of Green Party presidential candidates from the ballot for the Nov. 3 election, freeing county election boards to move forward with printing and mailing ballots to voters.
Thursday’s ruling, which found Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins and running mate Angela Walker did not file proper paperwork, could be a boon for Democrats, who viewed the minority party as a vote siphoner.
The Philadelphia City Commissioners confirmed the city will now move forward with finalizing and printing ballots, preparing to send them to voters who’ve already filed requests. The first step is testing the printers to make sure everything is running smoothly, said Deputy City Commissioner Nick Custodio.
“Once that testing is done, everything will be sent off to the printer and ballots will be in the mail,” Custodio said.
The court challenge decided Thursday was one of two that delayed the printing of mail-in ballots in Philadelphia; the other was resolved in August.
About 270,000 Philadelphia voters have applied for ballots to date. Custodio said voters could begin receiving their ballots in the mail within 8 to 10 days.
With voters nervous about delays in the U.S. Postal Service, many are eager to return their mail-in ballots as early as possible. A separate Pa. Supreme Court decision on Thursday extended the state’s deadline for mail ballots. Originally the cutoff was 8 p.m. Election Day. According to the new decision, if your ballot is postmarked by Nov. 3, it can be counted if received by 5 p.m. the following Friday, Nov. 6.
Counties in Pennsylvania that already began finalizing their ballots will now have to redesign them to remove the Green Party presidential and VP candidates before mailing them to voters.
Green Party candidates for attorney general, auditor general and treasurer were not part of the final challenge. They will remain on the upcoming ballot, according to Green Party attorney Larry Otter.
Paperwork was the “fatal” flaw for the Green Party, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling. The party’s initial president and vice presidential candidates fumbled the deadline to submit their nomination papers. One missed it entirely, while the other’s affidavit was faxed in time, but didn’t arrive before the deadline due to a printing delay.
Attorney Otter said he wasn’t totally surprised by the ruling, as these kinds of deficiencies are considered “fatal” defects for candidates under Pennsylvania election law.
“If you don’t file all the paperwork and somebody challenges all your petitions, you’re going to get knocked off the ballot,” Otter said.
If the Green Party candidates choose to appeal, they would have to take the case up to a federal court. Otter said he didn’t see that happening at this stage. “I still have to consult with my clients, but I’m having a hard time seeing a federal question here,” he said.
Nixing the minority party from the top ticket could be a gamechanger in battleground Pennsylvania — where Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein won almost 50,000 votes in 2016. President Donal Trump won the state over Democrat Hillary Clinton by just 44,000 votes.
The legal challenge was filed by Pittsburgh attorney Clifford Levine who has close ties to the Democratic Party. He could not be reached for comment.