Pa. Supreme Court Nixes Residency Requirement for Petition Circulators

Petition circulators do not need to live in the district where they are circulating, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled today, so long as they are Pa. residents. The Court’s decision was unanimous.

“The district residency requirement discerned in Section 2911(d) is unenforceable by the Secretary and the courts of this Commonwealth,” wrote Chief Justice Ron Castille in the majority opinion (PDF).

Castile explained that it was necessary to rule because an earlier Commonwealth Court ruling and a federal ruling on the matter were contradictory, and could interfere with a future election.

“The  issue  has  the  potential  to  arise  in  the  crucible  of  an  election  contest, thereby leaving little time for considered deliberation,” he wrote.

The ruling ends speculation as to what might have happened had the ballot challenge against Rep. Jason Altmire’s petitions continued. Check out the legal analysis of that case here.

As we concluded then, Altmire was never in danger of being knocked off the ballot; the Pa. Supreme Court has been looking for an opportunity to strike the residency requirement for years.

Pa. was one of just two states to impose the requirement (the other is California).

The ruling came as a result of an appeal by Carl Stevenson, an independent who ran for state House in the 134th district in 2010. His petitions were challenged on the grounds that many were collected by an independent candidate for Congress, who resided outside the district.

Ultimately, he was knocked off the ballot on a line-by-line challenge not related to the residency requirement. But he asked the Court to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the requirement to avoid such confusion in the future.

He cited the 2002 case of Morrill v. Weaver, when a federal court ruled that Pa’s residency requirement for circulators is unconstitutional. Morrill was also an independent candidate.

Stevenson’s Commonwealth Court judge had rejected the Morrill argument on the simple grounds that the Commonwealth Court is not bound by rulings of lower federal courts.

March 27th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 7 Comments

7 thoughts on “Pa. Supreme Court Nixes Residency Requirement for Petition Circulators”

  1. Sweeney says:

    This isn’t truly insane. Soon you will be able to run for office while sitting under your kitchen table! Seems insignificant? I’m guessing about 50 people,tops, even read this. Of that 50 about half are registered to vote. Out of those 25 registered voters, my guesstimate isn’t that 5 or one fifth will actually vote. It is time for BIG changes.

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  3. Chicken feed. Lower the 2 % to 1% – eliminate the “political body” artificial structure – stop indiscriminate challenges to 3d party candidates and stop challenges by parties to ‘body’ candidates – why can either party challenge a ‘body’ nomination yet only party pols can challenge a nomination petition ??!!

  4. V. Kurt Bellman says:

    Sorry folks, this applies only to “3rd party” candidiates, not Democrats and Republicans who run in primaries.

  5. Penna is now aligned with common sense and with 48 states.

  6. Adam says:

    This would not have come up in the Altimire case; the argument was that Silverman’s circulator affidavits were false, thus voiding them.

  7. Tio says:

    Right decision!

    One small complaint. This case has been pending since 2010. Couldn’t they have reached this decision BEFORE the recent petition period?

    But better late than never.

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