In 2020, the Green Party presidential ticket was left off the general election ballot due to a minor technicality. The state Supreme Court ruled that the defect was “fatal”. However, the dissent noted that the error was curable in the discretion of the Commonwealth Court.
Elizabeth Faye Scroggin and Neal Taylor Gale submitted affidavits in Pennsylvania as “placeholder” Green Party candidates for President and Vice President, respectively. This was necessary because Pennsylvania’s filing deadline fell before the Green Party’s national convention, when Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker were selected as the Green Party’s official candidates. However, Scroggin and Gale made minor filing errors in their affidavits, Scroggin’s having an incomplete signature and Gale’s being sent as an electronic copy to the Department of State rather than in person. Pointing to these defects, Paul Stefano and Tony Thomas, both active state Democrats, objected to the Green Party candidates’ place on the 2020 ballot and sued to have them excluded.
The Commonwealth Court denied Stefano and Thomas’ petition to exclude Hawkins and Walker from the ballot, but on appeal the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the defects to the Green Party’s nomination papers were material and fatal, and that the Department of State had no discretion to accept facially deficient nomination papers. The Court ordered the Secretary of the Commonwealth to remove Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker from the general election ballot as the Green Party’s nominees for President and Vice President.
Chief Justice Saylor wrote a concurring and dissenting opinion, concurring that an error was made in Scroggin’s affidavit submission, but breaking from the majority in contending that the error was curable in the discretion of the Commonwealth Court. The dissent cited legislation from 1998 that was intended to take away the process for challenging affidavits filed with nomination petitions or papers.
In 2016, Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate earned 49,941 votes. Joe Biden’s 2020 margin of victory was 81,660. We do not know how much smaller that victory margin would have been had Hawkins and Walker remained on the ballot, but we do know that a significant number of Pennsylvania voters were disenfranchised when their choice for president was eliminated.