Paul Glover wants to warn us: “In 60 years, either cars will be gone or we will.” Those are tough words. The Germantown resident says he hasn’t driven an automobile since 1978—and, based on a lifetime of research, he’s pretty sure that if more people don’t follow his lead, we’re all doomed. And before you ask: No, he’s not interested in cleaner fuel, or hybrid technology, or electric cars. He believes human mobility will be the end of humanity, because as long as fuel exists, and is cheap, human beings will continue to sprawl—and devour the earth.
“Even if you had a car which ran on parakeet farts and only needed one little parakeet fart a year, cars go everywhere,” he says. “There needs to be a deliberate restraint on human mobility. Otherwise, we entirely cover the planet with roads. Just roads everywhere.”
But who cares what this guy thinks? You should. Glover, a former Temple professor and leader of numerous green job and food organizations around Philadelphia, is running for governor of Pennsylvania on the Green Party ticket. While you’re spending your days checking out street festivals and the zoo’s new black-footed-cat kittens, Glover is going to be canvassing the city and state on his bike, attempting to gather signatures for a spot on the ballot in November.
It’s a ballot that’s exceedingly hard to get onto as an independent candidate—and made even harder, Glover feels, by the media and state organizational infrastructure that’s intentionally ignoring him.
Since earning the Green Party’s nomination at a private convention in State College on March 1, Glover has been on a physical and digital marathon, attempting to get his name out in the public. So far, he feels, the effort has been pretty unsuccessful.
When the Democratic candidates debated throughout the winter and spring ahead of the May primary, Glover was rarely invited to attend—and not for a lack of trying. First came the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit, a gathering of progressive leaders from all over the state. Glover sent an email to the summit’s organizers on January 23 saying he was a progressive candidate for governor and wanted to debate; he never got a response.
Then Philly Neighborhood Networks hosted a primary debate, and asked the Green Party if they wanted to sign on as co-sponsors of said debate, though Glover was not invited to attend. “Paul Glover is not a candidate in the primary,” PNN’s executive director Gloria Gilman pointed out via email in March.
And then, the one that probably stung the most, for a guy who’s gotten around on a bike since the ’70s: Glover wasn’t included in the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s candidate questionnaire on their website.
“We did not intentionally exclude Paul Glover,” says Nicholas Mirra, the Bicycle Coalition’s communications director. “We also did not send our questionnaire to Gov. Corbett. We only sent that survey to the candidates in the Democratic primary because that election was coming up. When the general election looms in October, we will be sending that survey or a similar one to the candidates for that election, and we will include Mr. Glover in that list.”
This, of course, is one of the most fundamental obstacles that face a third-party candidate: If you are a liberal, you exist outside the long-entrenched channels built by Democrats to reach liberal voters. And if you are a conservative, you exist outside the long-entrenched channels built by Republicans to reach conservative voters.
If you voted on May 20, you did not have the opportunity to vote in any state primary for an independent party: Your options were Democrat and Republican. This is because political parties in Pennsylvania are not allowed to participate in primary elections unless their party makes up at least 15 percent of the total electorate. None but the big two do.
Since independent parties are not involved in the statewide primary election, the state does not officially consider them candidates until August—three months before the election, more than half a year after the Democrats and Republicans have begun campaigning. So any organization or media outlet that chooses not to recognize the Green Party’s chosen candidate before August—well, they’re just following the state’s way of doing electoral business.
Both the Green and Libertarian parties in Pennsylvania have to collect about 17,000 signatures for the August 1 petition deadline this year, instead of the 2,000-signature threshold required of Democrat and Republican candidates. Jay Sweeney, the Green Party of Pennsylvania’s chairman, says Green efforts thus far have gathered about 4,000 signatures statewide. Glover says he’s collected about 500 of them himself.
There’s an endlessly self-perpetuating cycle at work here. Because the state has chosen to make the rules harder for independent party candidates, media and issue-based organizations are less likely to pay attention. Without that attention, it’s harder for Glover to fundraise. Without fundraising, Greens can’t pay petitioners to help gather signatures. And without signatures, they won’t qualify for the ballot.
There’s an additional hoop to jump through: Rather than preparing new 2014 ballot petitions for the independent parties, the state is simply reusing the 2012 petitions. Since there was a presidential election in 2012, that means the petitions include an unnecessary space for presidential electors—which makes the petition too big to fit on regular letter-sized paper, which means the average citizen can’t easily print copies out at home, which means the Green Party has to spend money and time mailing hard copies to volunteers instead of sending them by email.
Glover says he’s complained to the state Board of Elections but they haven’t responded. “It’s petty and major at the same time,” he says. “You call them up, and they say, ‘I don’t know what that is.’ We sent them an email, and they don’t reply. It makes it really difficult for us and other people who want to run as Greens.”
The Board of Elections did not respond to PW’s requests for comment.
Glover shows me his summer calendar. It includes festivals and meetings through June he’ll be attending to gather signatures and speak to potential voters—everything from a homeschooling meeting at Liberty Lands Park to a prison healthcare and re-entry summit on June 10, all of which he’ll be traveling to and from by bike.
He hopes it won’t all be invisible to the vast majority of voters.
“[The Greens] aren’t just an independent party, we’re distinct independent voices,” he says. “If we’re going to avoid riots and revolution, we need to have free and fair elections. That’s why we have elections; that’s why we have free speech—to prevent explosions.”
Explosions? “That’s not a threat,” he says. “That’s history.”