Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Decision Upholding Signature Law Not Relevant to Romanelli Petition Issues

Contrary to the implication by a bunch of uninformed caseyphiles elsewhere, today's decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholding Pennsylvania's signature requirement for minor party candidates has no bearing on either the Democratic attempt to keep Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli off the ballot nor on Romanelli's legal action challenging the State Board of Elections' application of that law.

The Third Circuit decision came in the case of Marakay Rogers, The Green Party, and others, who challenged the constitutionality of the state law requiring minor party candidates to obtain signatures equal to 2% of the most votes cast for a candidate in the statewide election preceding the general election in which the minor party seeks to nominate a candidate. While there were a number of arguments presented to the Third Circuit on the constitutional issues, a prior decision of the United States Supreme Court, which upheld even more onerous requirements, was controlling.

Romanelli's legal challenge to the signature requirement does not challenge the constitutionality of the statute. Therefore, a Federal Court decision on the constitutionality of the statute is irrelevant to the state court proceeding. In Romanelli's petition, he contends that the Board of Elections erred in selecting Bobby Casey's vote total as the basis.

The Pennsylvania statute (25 P.S. Section 2911(b)) states, in pertinent part, as follows:
Where the nomination is for any office to be filled by the electors of the State at large, the number of qualified electors of the State signing such nomination paper shall be at least equal to two per centum of the largest vote cast for any elected candidate in the state at large at the last preceding election at which State-wide candidates were voted for.
The State Board designated the 2004 election of Casey as "the largest vote cast for any elected candidate in the state at large at the last preceding election at which State-wide candidates were voted for", leading to the 67,000+ signature requirement for this year's minor party candidates.

But, there was a statewide election in 2005 -- the judicial retention election of Justice Sandra Schultz Newman. She won retention with about 800,000 votes, meaning that Romanelli would need submit slightly less than 16,000 signatures. His argument is not unpursuasive:
The Election Code states that the word "election" shall mean any general, municipal, special or primary election . . . . A general election is defined as an even year election and a municipal election as an odd year election. . . . "The Election Code is to be liberally construed so as not to deprive a candidate of the right to run for office or the voters of their right to elect the candidate of their choice." Smith v. Brown, 590 A.2d 816, 818 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1991). This construction of the Election Code is a longstanding and established policy. . . . The Department of State erred when it set the 2% signature requirement based upon the 2004 statewide results in the Treasurer√É‚’s race and has ignored the 2005 statewide race for judicial retention wherein Justice Sandra Schultz Newman won the retention election with 797,465 votes cast by the citizen electors of the Commonwealth on November 8, 2005.
Today's decision by the Third Circuit didn't address the sole issue raised by the Romanelli petition -- whether a judicial retention election is, well, an "election". Any suggestion to the contrary, that the Third Circuit decision means we can kiss Romanelli goodbye, is just silly and entirely uninformed. But, considering the source, we're not surprised they got it so wrong.

[UPDATE (8/24/06): Those buffoons are at it again. They repeated their story today and again insisted that this decision will knock Romanelli off the ballot. They are so intent on getting their guy elected that they abandon all objectivity, and, from all appearances, anysemblancee of intelligence. Credibility is hard to develop and easy to lose. They either don't know what they are talking about, or think that their readers don't. Regardless which it is, being an advocate is fine and fair play; but being the fool, or treating your audience like one, is just, well, foolish.]

[UPDATE (8/24/06): The Patriot-News is reporting that the judge hearing the Romanelli petition is expected to rule by the the end of the day tomorrow. THAT would be the relevant case. The judge, Commonwealth Court President Judge James Collins, will have to decide if the rentention election of Justice Newman in 2005 was an "election". If so, it would be her votes which would form the basis for the Green Party's signature requirements this year, as opposed to the Casey vote in 2004. That would have the result of reducing the Green Party signature requirement from nearly 70,000 to around 16,000. Everyone pretty much agrees that if Romanelli wins that case, he is on the ballot for good. If he loses, he has to defeat the Democrat's challenge to his signatures. By reports, that is looking doubtful.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually this case, if won, could have lowered the signature threshold for romanelli. It is being apealed to the supreme court by rogers, but i won't hold my breath waiting for a decision.

"Everyone pretty much agrees that if Romanelli wins that case, he is on the ballot for good. If he loses, he has to defeat the Democrat's challenge to his signatures. By reports, that is looking doubtful."

"Doubtfull" only if you listen to the caseyphiles. If romanelli loses this motion, it will be apealed. The signature count is revealing that romanelli will likely have the 67,000 he needs if the court can handle the unpresidented number of disputed signatures in the limited time available.