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
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
NOTE: THESE NUMBERS ADD UP TO GREATER THAN 951 BECAUSE SOME SIGNATURES ARE CHALLENGED FOR MULTIPLE REASONS.
Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.