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Challenging Unconstitutional Candidate Filing Fees: Belitskus v. Pizzingrilli

Many states require candidates for public office to pay a fee in order to appear on an election ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held, however, that a state may not charge a fee without providing low-income candidates with an alternative means of qualifying. In two landmark cases of the 1970s, the Court said that imposing such a fee blocks participation by low- and modest-income candidates, and thereby violates the 14th Amendment’s promise of equal protection of the law.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, Pennsylvania maintained a candidate filing fee with no waiver or alternative for low income candidates. After learning of these fees just before the 2000 elections, NVRI filed suit to challenge the practice on behalf of Pennsylvania low-income candidates and voters. On August 20, 2001, U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled that the fees were illegal and unconstitutional. This marks a major victory for the principle that all candidates and voters have the constitutional right to participate in the electoral process regardless of economic status.

Please visit our legal library to read the the legal documents in the case and press room to read our press release.

NVRI's legal brief in this case
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Challenging Barriers: