Candidates in several Pennsylvania primary elections are trying to throw their opponents off the ballot, through legal petition challenges.
Candidates need to meet minimum petition thresholds to appear on the primary ballot– a state House candidate needs 300 signatures, someone running for Congress requires a thousand, and for governor you need at least 2,000 with a minimum of 100 apiece in at least 10 counties.
If anyone thinks rival campaigns’ forms are filled with invalid signatures, they can appeal to Commonwealth Court, which will then scrutinize the filings.
Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna says there’s a certain strategy behind the challenges.
"You would file a petition challenge a) if you think the person has insufficient petitions based on inability to follow the state’s election code, if you think participation by that person on the ballot is likely to hurt your candidacy. On the other hand, if there’s a candidate on the ballot that you think hurts your opponent, you’re not going to go after their petitions and try to knock them off the ballot."
Chet Harhut, commissioner for the Department of State’s Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, says bureua makes sure forms are filled out correctly, and that the number of signatures meet the minimum requirements – but it doesn’t verify all the petitions’ names.
"It’s more of a resource thing, in that it would be virtually impossible to have 14-hundred people come through our door, which we had last week, and have to go through every signature. We leave that to the people that really scrutinize the stuff, and to look further into it. We take it at face value."
Persons acting on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato filed a complaint in Commonwealth Court challenging the petitions of fellow Democrat Joe Hoeffel.
Congressional candidates Pat Meehan and incumbent Kathy Dahlkemper are facing challenges, as are several people running against sitting state lawmakers.
In all, close to 90 challenges have been filed.