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UPDATED: Critz Camp Seeks to Knock Altmire Off the Ballot

Update from Rep. Altmire’s Campaign:

“After reviewing the baseless challenge to my campaign’s nominating petitions, the facts are as clear today as they were when the petitions were filed — we have met the required threshold of 1000 valid signatures to appear on the primary ballot. We knew this when my campaign filed the petitions, and we know it now after reviewing the politically motivated complaint filed by my challenger from Johnstown.


Make no mistake, this challenge is a desperate attack from a desperate campaign. Trailing by double-digits even in his own polling and at 2-1 disadvantage in campaign funding, Mark Crtiz has now lowered himself to try to win an election by invalidating the legitimate signatures of voters, including many of his own current constituents. This is a despicable act designed to disenfranchise the new 12th district voters by denying them the opportunity to simply have a choice on the ballot.”

Rep. Mark Critz filed in Commonwealth Court Tuesday alleging that Rep. Altmire did not file enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Critz’s camp says that 941 of Altmire’s 1,651 petitions signatures are invalid. 1,000 are required to make the ballot. They are invalid because some of the people do not live in the district, are not registered Democrats or their names do not match names on the voter rolls.

The Critz campaign is also alleging that some of the names were collected by a campaign staffer, Abby Silverman, who lives in Pittsburgh and collected the signatures outside the new congressional district.

Update: Altmire campaign manager Angela Ruslander did not respond to specifics, but issued this statement:

“We will not comment on this until we have a chance to review the complaint but we feel very confident that Jason Altmire will be on the ballot and will be the Democratic nominee from Pennsylvania’s 12th district.”

It is common for campaigns to challenge opponents’ signatures, and judicial leniency typically prevents it from having a fatal effect. But this is a serious challenge and has an above-average chance of success.

Critz campaign manager, Mike Mikus said, “For someone running as the strongest candidate in the general, it shows a serious weakness in his organization.”

Here is the statement from the Critz campaign:

The campaign for Congressman Mark Critz today filed objections to Congressman Jason Altmire’s nominating petitions to appear on the ballot in the April 24 Democratic Primary.  Altmire submitted 1651 petitions of which 942 are invalid, leaving him far short of the 1000 signatures required to appear on the ballot.

“All candidates for office are required to follow state law when gathering signatures for nominating petitions and Members of Congress are not exempt,” Critz campaign attorney Scott Caulfield said. “It is clear that Jason Altmire’s campaign did not follow the law in this process and lacks the number of signatures required under law.  Therefore, he does not qualify to appear on the ballot.”

Hundreds of signatures appeared on petitions circulated by an Altmire staffer who currently lives in the City of Pittsburgh – outside the district. Some petitions are invalid for technical reasons such as individuals are not registered Democrats or are duplicates, but many also appear to have been forged by a circulator.

941 signatures are challenged for the following reasons:

610 Defective Circulator’s Affidavits
115 Line Information Omitted
87 Illegible
85 Nicknames or Initials
79 Not Registered
66 Omitted or Incorrect Municipality
64 Line Information in the Hand of Another
38 Not Registered at Address
33 Not Registered Democrats
24 Invalid Dates
22 Duplicate Signatures
17 Struck Before Filing
16 Struck by Pennsylvania Department of Commonwealth
12 Signed After Circulator’s Affidavit Dated
8   Printed Signatures
1   Printed and Signed Different Names


Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.

8 Responses

  1. SB 1295 sounds pretty interesting. It would push people away from the edges and allow more moderate candidates to be competitive.

  2. David, I agree with you. Independent candidates should have to get the exact same number of candidates as the major party candidates. I’d also favor allowing the Greens, Libertarians, and other qualified third parties to hold primaries alongside the Ds and Rs. This only makes sense considering that the taxpayers are already funding the nomination elections for the two major parties.

    One other thing worth checking out is SB 1295. Senators Anthony Williams and Wayne Fontana are the co-sponsors. It would allow independents to vote in primaries on the party line of their choosing when they show up at the polling place.

  3. Tony- The REAL reform needed is fixing the requirements for Independent candidates to get on the ballot (and not need 5 times as many signatures as the two parties)

  4. Ah. PoliticsPA doesn’t do its research… again. Their reporters copy and paste press releases and are totally unable to analyze or look into things further.

  5. Pennsylvania’s ballot petition system must be eliminated. It’s designed to make it very diffcult to get on the ballot. Americans who want to run for office should not have to have a political machine behind them in order to get on the ballot. File a form, pay ten bucks, get the voters to say who is qualified.

  6. Looking into this a bit further…
    At first reading I thought the challenge was that Abby lived in Pittsburgh, outside of the new 12th district.

    However, I checked, and Abby is definitely in the new 12th district. If that’s the basis of their challenge, then they lose because she is registered Allegheny-O’Hara which is in the old 12th and the new 12th.

    So, now, I’m looking at the wording more closely, and at one point it sounds like Critz campaign is also claiming that Abby collected signatures from people who lived outside the 12th. But the complaint counts aren’t high enough in anything that would be related.

    Sound to me like Politics PA should have researched this better or posted a copy/scan of the allegedly defective circulator entry from a petition.

    I’m assuming this challenge won’t stand, unless I get more clarification on this.

  7. This is very interesting development. One has to be careful with the registrations to have an up-to-date file. The state stopped issuing disks during the redistricting confusion, though tens of thousands of registrations have been dropped, added or altered. The VAN system is months out of date and not reliable for removing voters from portions.
    The question of the qualifications of the circulator is more significant.

  8. Is there a reason why there are three different numbers throughout their report as to how many signatures are actually being challenged? We see 941, 942 and 951. Although it is stupid Altmire’s camp would allow someone outside of the district to sign the back of the petitions, Critz’s camp should at least be professional enough to proof read their press releases.

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