Monday, August 20, 2007

Election Board Petitioned to Hear Case

It's my understanding that once an election board officially receives a filed complaint of potential election irregularities the board is "obligated" to investigate. How can the officials know whether there were any irregularities unless they initiate a preliminary investigation?

Upon potentially finding such irregularitites, the election board would then submit findings for potential prosecution to the local District Attorney.

In this local case, the board is comprised of appointed members since the three county commissioners who comprise the election board are seeking re-election.

Years back, a small group including myself requested the then commissioners determine whether it was possible to have an election board of non-commissioners appointed, much like members are appointed to an authority. Needless to say, nothing came of that effort. Wouldn't it be less "political" to have a board appointed whose members didn't have any "stake" politically in the outcome of potential investigations?

Lally attorney seeks dismissal of petition
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard

The attorney for Democratic Fayette County controller candidate Sean P. Lally is asking the Fayette County Election Bureau to dismiss a petition filed by Controller Mark Roberts alleging election fraud against Lally, saying the issues have all been handled by a court of law.

In a letter to the Fayette County Election Bureau, Lally's attorney, Maria Balling-Peck, writes that the allegations and charges are "reaching a point of sheer absurdity" that are putting undue stress on Lally and his entire family.

Balling-Peck writes that the petition is nothing more than a "last-ditched effort by Mr. Roberts, who as we all know lost the primary election, to attempt to tarnish and harm my client without any justification or merit whatsoever."

The petition Balling-Peck is referencing, filed by Roberts earlier this month, asks the election board to "investigate violations of the election code and several other crimes Sean Lally committed in connection with his campaign and candidacy for the office of Fayette County controller." The Roberts petition also alleges, "His (Lally's) offenses include, but are not limited to, false testimony and other statements, election fraud, and illegal voting."

Exactly what, if anything, will be done, remains in the hands of the election board. Laurie Lint, director of the Fayette County Election Bureau, Friday confirmed receipt of Balling-Peck's response. Lint said the matter has been forwarded to county solicitor Sheryl Heid, whom Lint said has sent packets of information to each of the three election board members. Lint said what steps are taken next will be up to the election board members, who could opt to have a hearing on the complaint. Heid did not return a call seeking comment.

This year, the election board is composed of three appointed members because all three county commissioners are seeking re-election. Republicans Alvin S. Mundel and John E. Young, both of Uniontown, and Democrat Mark M. Mehalov of Fairchance are serving on the board...

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In the complaint, Mark Roberts is asking the election board to hold a hearing and conduct a thorough investigation into Lally's actions without delay.

A major challenge to Lally's petitions was the fact that he signed an affidavit on the petitions as the circulator, but did not personally circulate all petitions that he signed as circulator. During testimony, Lally said he did not think he was doing anything wrong because he gave the petitions to people that he trusted to circulate them.

Election law, enacted in 2001, requires the person who signs the affidavit as circulator to obtain every name on that petition.

In his ruling, Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Joseph F. McCloskey affirmed a prior order filed by Fayette County Judge Steve P. Leskinen that allowed Lally to remain on the ballot despite the challenge of irregularities and deficiencies in Lally's nomination petitions.

After four days of lengthy testimony, Leskinen struck 148 of the 436 signatures Lally turned in to the election bureau on 15 petitions.

In his opinion, McCloskey affirmed all decisions of the trial court, which held that Lally had 288 valid signatures, or 38 more than the 250 required to seek the office.

During the four-day hearing, dozens of people who signed Lally's petitions testified. Throughout the testimony, it was revealed that some of those who signed did so for others, were not registered to vote, or were not registered Democrats.

In addition to Lally appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot as the Democratic candidate for controller, Ray Eicher of Fairchance has filed nomination papers to run as an independent on the ballot. There are no Republican candidates.


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