Pitch in for petition candidates
The state Senate approved a bill on Wednesday to correct the confusion in filing requirements that led to nearly 200 candidates getting tossed off the ballot earlier this month. Too bad it was too late to do them any good in this election cycle.
Nevertheless, the House should go ahead and take the necessary steps to approve the Senate revisions in order to salvage a little something from this embarrassing situation. A full 20 percent of candidates for state and local offices were forced off the ballot.
The change would clarify the ethics reporting requirements for candidates as they file for office, and would put the local election commissions in charge of taking the paperwork from candidates. The political parties are currently responsible for candidate filings, and this case demonstrates just how far they fell short of their responsibility.
Candidates lost their places on the ballot because they failed to meet the technical requirement of filing their economic disclosure forms when they filed to run for office. Those forms detail any money they make from government work and list any close relations who are lobbyists.
Those candidates, however, can still make the ballot for the November general election — if they are willing to put in some extra work.
The parties should lend a hand to those who want to file as petition candidates. It’s only fair, since party officials — Republican and Democratic — failed to properly advise their candidates regarding the filing requirement. In its ruling, the Supreme Court singled out the political parties for not keeping up with the law.
For Republicans, that could require action by party leaders to suspend a rule that prohibits helping a non-Republican candidate if there’s already a party member in the race. We’re told that prohibition could even extend to signing a petition to put a candidate on the ballot. Petition candidates will be running nominally as independents.
Petition candidates are required to obtain signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in the district where they are running to get on the ballot for the general election.
For state Senate candidates that can be as high as 3,000 signatures.
A concerted effort by the political parties could advance that goal, while publicizing the fact that those who appear on the ballot as petition candidates were removed from the ballot through little, if any, fault of their own.
The situation is particularly galling since incumbent candidates escaped the troublesome technicality because they already had disclosure forms on file. For the other candidates, the confusion was over a recent requirement to file electronically.
And while few have suggested that there was anything sinister in the incumbents’ escape, there’s bound to be some lingering resentment over the situation.
Certainly, that should be the case with Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, who made a concerted effort to derail a long-shot proposal in the Senate to get everyone back on the ballot. Sen. Knotts was facing a serious challenge in the primary — until the court ruling removed his opponent from the ballot.
Incidentally, that court challenge was initiated by a political associate of Sen. Knotts, though he denied any involvement by the senator. Well, sure.
In Chester County, seven candidates who lost their slots on the ballot have agreed to work together to advance their petition prospects. Those include candidates of different parties, some of whom are seeking the same office.
That’s the spirit.
Citizens who are interested in the electoral process, and in helping to right a wrong, should pitch in as well.
And the political parties, local and statewide, should contribute their time and resources to do the same, to give those disenfranchised candidates for local and legislative offices a better chance to meet the Aug. 19 deadline for the general election.
It won’t level the playing field, but it would make the long, hard climb less daunting.