On December 21, U.S. District Court Lawrence Stengel held a status conference in Constitution Party of Pennsylvania v Cortes, 5:12cv-2726. As already reported, on December 13 the Third Circuit had issued a ruling in this case, casting doubt on whether the county distribution requirement for minor party and independent candidate statewide candidates is constitutional. It requires petitions for minor party and independent gubernatorial candidates to not only be signed by 5,000 signatures, but to have at least 250 signatures from each of ten counties. The Third Circuit had noted that such county distribution requirements have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court twice, and by at least ten lower court decisions from around the country.
On December 21, the minor parties suggested to Judge Stengel that his order from last year merely be changed to delete the county distribution requirement. The state said it needs two or three weeks to decide whether it accepts that idea. Judge Stengel then set a new status conference for January 10, 2018, at which it is likely this will be resolved. Of course Judge Stengel is free to make his own decision, in case both sides don’t agree. Or he might order a trial to determine whether the county distribution requirement can possibly be justified.