Friday, March 16, 2007

Names of Electors to be checked for election bureau mailings

Net the Truth Online first-hand report (March 16, 2007)(updated March 17, 2007 with new links and expanded material)

A court hearing before Judge Steve Leskinen in Fayette County which began Thursday afternoon and continued Friday afternoon should be on the must-read and learn-from list of every voter still alive and kicking.

Sitting Fayette County Controller Mark Roberts (Democrat) filed a challenge to the nomination petitions of Democratic opponent Sean Lally citing some 318 names/signatures for disqualification. Primary Election candidates for the county office need a minimum of 250 signatures to obtain ballot access.

Should Roberts succeed in having enough names disqualified from the nomination petitions, Sean Lally's name will not appear as a candidate in the Primary Election for Fayette County controller.

Judge Steve Leskinen did the mathwork yesterday, noting a total of 436 signatures on Lally nomination petititions. Judge Leskinen said 318 signatures were under challenge. 150 of those names are contained on several nomination pages under challenge for "improper affadavit of circulator."

At the outset of the hearing the phrase was under objection by Mr. Tim Andrews, Sean Lally's attorney, for not being specific, and he continued that argument today.

Judge Leskinen permitted the matter to remain in the bounds of the challenge. He referenced Roberts' complaint during the ensuing discussion, and the citations both parties had prepared.

Apparently, some of the 150 names comprising those petitions challenged for "improper affadavit of circulator" (approximately 12-15 pages) are additionally being challenged specifically for accuracy of address, printed names in place of the requirement for handwritten names (unless the printed name is on file on the couty's voter registry), duplication of a name on Lally petitions, signer is of a different party, etc.

During the proceedings, Lally's attorney, Andrews, argued effectively that election law heavily leans in support of the voting right preservation of electors. Judge Leskinen apparently agreed as many names challenged remained on hold pending further review.

Before continuing with testimony of witnesses, Judge Leskinen first revisited the matter of individual voters not notifying the election bureau of a change in address.

Approximately a half-dozen names were held over pending review on the issue of names and addresses not matching up on the voter registration lists. More names were slated to be so challenged today.

However, before those proceeedings got underway, Judge Leskinen required something in part that we've been squawking about for a decade now.

A review of the names and addresses on Fayette County's voter registration list.

Judge Leskinen cited 25 PS Section 1901 of the Election Code. He offered that a change in address in the county only becomes relevant after a second federal election wherein an elector has not voted.

Judge Leskinen then cited legislation passed after year 2000 Bush vs Gore referencing the date January 1, 2002.

Judge Leskinen outlined two methods to cancel an elector which included the elector confirms a change in residency outside of the county and the elector has not appeared to vote (in three general elections) and has failed to respond to a notice sent by the Election Commission. (We'll have to check the record on that as Judge Leskinen moved swiftly along citing the two successive federal elections earlier).

Judge Leskinen's question: were notices sent to addresses of people who did not vote ... after May 17, 2002 and before November, 2004?

The task of finding out the answer falls on the Election Bureau. The Bureau is given until Wednesday when court reconvenes to pull out the names and addresses of some 70 names on the Lally petitions noted for disqualification regarding a discrepancy per address.

The alleged address discrepancies are going to weigh in heavily on the decision of Judge Leskinen next week. Judge Leskinen said at one point that Roberts has to show the address on the nomination petition and on the named voter's registration are not the same, the signer has moved, and the signer was given "one more chance" to vote in an election, and has voted at least once before signing the petition, and did not inform of a change in address before signing the petition.

So the findings of the Fayette County Election Bureau will be crucial to the case.

The testimony of Fayette County Election Bureau director, Laurie Lint, continued to provide a basis on which to strike more names from the Lally nomination petititions, but in another several instances names were retained for further review.

Some signatures on the Lally petitions were printed whereas election law requires handwritten signatures unless the signature is on file as printed for reasons of disability, etc.

Two lines were stricken because both names were printed with Judge Leskinen noting the pair appeared to be written the same.

One name was held for review appearing to be the name of someone who wanted to use a middle name rather than the full name as it appeared on the voter registration list.

Judge Leskinen continued to hestitate to strike out names that were potentially maiden names of married women which remained in effect for voting. At least a dozen of those names were to be checked for address listings for comparison on the voter registration and the Lally nomination petitions.

A good bit of names fell for being registered of a different party, Republican or No Party.

There was discussion when the duplicate name of Mark B. Santore appeared on Lally petitions with the determination the name was registered only at one address.

Testimony was also given by several persons who received subpoenas to appear today. The testimony at times caused complete silence in the courtroom, at other times there were mumblings from Lally supporters.

In emotional testimony, one woman testified she had changed her registration from Democrat to Republican and remained as such when she signed the petition. She repeated it was an accident, a mistake that she also signed the names of her son, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's mother, thinking she could do so on what was expressed to her as "a petition to get someone out of the courthouse who was stealing money..." She apologized to her family, she said, and was told by her boyfriend's mother everybody makes mistakes.

Identified as Annette Flora of Blaney Street, Masontown, she was asked who was present and whether permission from them had been given to her to sign their names. She testified they were not present, were not aware of her signing their names to the petition, and did not give her permission to do so.

Explicit about how she printed the names and then signed them, she was asked whether she made any attempt to disguise the handwriting. She said no she didn't make any attempts. She further testified after signing the names of the others she was told that was alright.

She was also asked who had asked her to sign the document and she gave a name of Kathy Winkler.

Her name was stricken from the nomination petition for being registered of a different party. The other names were stricken from the Lally petitions.

During cross-examination, Lally's attorney asked about her signing the petitions in her home. She became upset and said she didn't say that she signed them at her home, she testified where she was, helping care for a mother where she was asked to sign the document.

After her testimony, Judge Leskinen said the incident is a complete "subverting of the process... as abusive of the process as anything I can think of..."

Mr. Tim Andrews, Lally's lawyer commented at one point we don't know how many are fraudulent on other candidates' petitions because all nominating petitions are not challenged.

After the woman completed her testimony, Judge Leskinen also said Sean Lally is noted as the one who is the circulator on the nomination petition.

Relatives of one woman who was not present included husband, son, and daughter-in-law testified they gave permission for her to sign their names, but they did not sign the petition themselves. Those names were stricken.

Mark Roberts' attorney, Jason Adams, made a request to strike the wife's name, but Judge Leskinen determined from testimony the woman was registered to vote and he did not think it was necessary to strike her name unless there's some penalty for someone signing another's name.

It appeared from discussion among counsel and Judge Leskinen in open court that those names were stricken from petitions which fell under the challenge of "improper affadavit of circulator."

Roberts' attorney stated some 200 subpoenas had been issued, but only about two dozen persons had shown as of the afternoon proceedings. The documents will be reissued for the hearing to continue next Wednesday at 9:30 AM in Courtroom 3.


Affadavit of Circulator of Petition

Fayette County Election Bureau

Frances D. Pratt, Director
Greene County Office Building

SURE Rules Regulations

“Pennsylvania Election Code” Act 320 of 1937, P.L. 1333; 25 P.S. § 2601

Filed February 8, 2001

How to Run for Political Office: A Campaign Manual for Pennsylvania Candidates

General Instructions

Fayette County Audit Report

No comments: