Court Loosens Another Pa. Ballot Petition Rule

All 6 Justices (Orie Melvin, top right, is still out) agreed. After all, they had to collect petition signatures, too.

It’s the most basic element of a campaign, and yet it’s the most important: petition signatures. Politicos know what a headache they can be, and how even small problems can result in a candidate being kicked off the ballot.

The Pa. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a signature to nominate a candidate still counts, even if the person signing neglects to write the year.

“For the reasons set forth in the dissenting opinion of Senior Judge Colins, such omissions in the context of this particular case do not constitute material defects warranting the removal of the signatures,” the Court ruled, referring to a specific subset of signatures for Libertarian candidates that had been challenged.

“Moreover, the interspersal of the challenged signatures among others dated in 2012 supports a common sense deduction that the challenged signatures also occurred in that year and negates any concern that the omissions ‘call into question the identity of the signatory or compromise the integrity of the election process.’”

Essentially, according to attorney and Pa. election law expert Adam Bonin, so long as the year of the petition is clear (on the petition heading and included by at least some signatories), the signatures are valid.

It’s the second petition change the Court has ruled this year. Back in March, the Supremes nixed a requirement that petition circulators live within the district where they’re circulating (e.g., a volunteer from Erie can now circulate petitions on behalf of a state House candidate running in Scranton).

That change isn’t definitive yet; the Court’s ruling pertained to a candidate running as an independent. Most expect that, should the residency requirement come up again that the Court will expand its ruling to Democrats and Republicans, too. But it’s not a certainty.

The Court also ruled in favor of A.J. Gales, whose signatures were challenged on the grounds that signatories used nicknames instead of legal names. The Court said that so long as the nicknames were “diminutive,” or obvious derivations from full names (e.g. “Ed” for “Edward”), they will count.

One Response

  1. I think it is reach to make a sweeping conclusion about the missing year in the context of this case. The one thing that made this different from other petitions was the simple fact that the State Dept PRINTED the year on the form. In the past I had not seen that information on nomination petitions. I think the decision is limited to the facts of this particular case

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