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NOMINATION PETITION PETE WAGNER FOR OFFICE REPRESENTATIVE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (04/02/86)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: April 2, 1986.

IN RE: THE NOMINATION PETITION OF PETE WAGNER FOR THE OFFICE OF REPRESENTATIVE IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, PENNSYLVANIA DISTRICT 22

Original Jurisdiction in the case of In Re: The Nomination Petition of Pete Wagner for the Office of Representative in the General Assembly, Pennsylvania District 22.

COUNSEL

William Martin Sloane, for petitioner.

Jeannine Turgeon, with her, Michael Q. Davis, Campbell, Spitzer, Davis & Turgeon, for respondent.

Judge Palladino. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 174]

Before us is the petition of Steve Seventy (Petitioner) to set aside the nomination papers of Pete Wagner (Candidate), candidate for the office of Representative to the General Assembly from the 22nd Legislative District.

The total number of signatures on the nomination papers is 352. To be valid, the nominating papers must contain 300 valid signatures of registered and enrolled members of the proper party. Section 912.1(14) of the Election Code.*fn1 In this case the proper party is Democratic.

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 175]

In order to set aside the nomination papers, Petitioner has the burden of proving that 53 of the signatures are invalid. Petitioner, in his original petition to set aside, challenged a total of 81 signatures.*fn2 The table which follows shows the categories of the challenges and the number of signatures challenged in each category.

Category # of Signatures

Signers Not Registered 70

Ditto Marks 4

No Date 1

Signed in Same Handwriting 6

Petitioner presented the testimony of James E. Scanlon, Director of Elections of Allegheny County, and of Petitioner himself. Candidate testified on his own behalf. At the close of Candidate's case, he moved to amend several of the signatures, and to allow the inclusion of certain signatures as valid despite incorrect addresses. The Court grants these motions.*fn3

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 176]

Based on these amendments and the testimony presented, this Court finds a total of thirty-one (31) signatures to be invalid. Of the signatures challenged because the signator was not registered, we find a total of twenty-seven (27) signatures to be invalid for this reason. We invalidate four additional signatures, one of which is a duplicate, one of which has no date and was not amended, one of which was a registered Republican, and one of which was not a resident of the District. The page and line numbers of the invalidated signatures are set forth in the footnotes to this opinion.*fn4

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 177]

We find that the challenge to signatures purportedly in the same handwriting must fail for insufficient proof. Candidate testified that, for the challenged signatures on page six, lines 11 and 12, he compared the signatures on the petition to those on the registration cards and found them to be proper. We find Candidate's testimony to be credible. As to the other challenged signatures on page 10, lines 2 through 7, Mr. Scanlon testified that in his opinion the signatures were all made by the same hand. Although the Court notes some similarity in the handwriting, we are not persuaded by Mr. Scanlon's testimony alone that each individual did not sign his or her own name. None of the registration cards for the challenged signatures was offered for comparison. Because we are not convinced the signatures are invalid, they will not be stricken.

Although 31 of the signatures on Candidate's nominating papers are invalid, there remain 321 valid signatures. Because Petitioner has not presented sufficient evidence to set aside the nomination papers, we dismiss Petitioner's petition to set aside nominating papers of Pete Wagner.

Order

And Now, April 2, 1986, the petition of Steve Seventy to set aside the nominating papers of Pete Wagner for the office of Representative in the General Assembly for the 22nd Legislative District is denied. The Secretary of the Commonwealth is directed to certify the name of Pete Wagner for inclusion on the ballot of the Democratic Party at the 1986 Primary Election.

Costs to be paid by Petitioner.

Disposition

Petition to set aside denied.


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