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TRINSEY v. MITCHELL

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


March 17, 1994

JACK TRINSEY
v.
BRENDA K. MITCHELL, et al.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; EDWARD N. CAHN

MEMORANDUM

 CAHN, C.J.

 This case involves the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's ballot access laws for senatorial and gubernatorial candidates of major political parties, as well as peripheral challenges to other aspects of the election scheme. plaintiff Jack Trinsey ("Trinsey"), appearing pro se,1 challenges the constitutionality of certain signature requirements of the Pennsylvania Election Code ("Election Code"). Additionally, Trinsey asks this court for an order rescheduling Pennsylvania's primary election for a later date, and for a monetary judgment against the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania ("RSC"). Jurisdiction in this matter exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

 Before the court is a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant defendants' motion to dismiss.

 I. Legal Standard

 The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Sturm v. Clark, 835 F.2d 1009, 1011 (3d Cir. 1987). A complaint may not be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which could entitle him to relief." Perry v. Grant, 775 F. Supp. 821, 824 (M.D. Pa. 1991) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957)). In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). Dismissal is not appropriate unless it clearly appears that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Robb v. Philadelphia, 733 F.2d 286, 290 (3d Cir. 1984).

 II. Background

 On February 14, 1994, Trinsey, a self-described "rank and file member of the Republican Party" (Compl. at 3, P 7a), who is "relentlessly litigating for more fair and equitable voter rights not only in this Honorable Court but in every State in the Union" (Compl. at 3, P 7b), filed a three-count complaint seeking the following relief:

 

(1) a declaratory judgment that sections of the Election Code, which require that persons seeking the nomination of a major political party file a nomination petition bearing a requisite number of signatures in an allotted time frame, pose an unconstitutional burden on candidates. See 25 P.S. §§ 2868, 2872.1 and 2873.

 

(2) an order rescheduling the primary election.

 

(3) a monetary judgment against the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania "in an amount equal to [Trinsey's] fair share of 1994 Republican Primary Campaign Funds." (Compl. at 8, P 15).

 Each argument will be dealt with seriatim.2

 III. Discussion

 A. Constitutionality of Election Code Provisions

 Trinsey challenges the constitutionality of that portion of the Election Code which requires a prospective senatorial or gubernatorial candidate to obtain two thousand signatures of registered and enrolled members of the proper party within a total of 22 days. *fn3" Trinsey claims that the requirement that he gather 2,000 signatures within the short time period allotted violates his constitutional rights. *fn4"

 Trinsey's argument is meritless. It is beyond dispute that states may impose reasonable restrictions to limit access to the ballot. Perry, 775 F. Supp. at 825. The Supreme Court has consistently held that states have an "undoubted right to require candidates to make a preliminary showing of substantial support in order to qualify for a place on the ballot . . . . " Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189, 194, 93 L. Ed. 2d 499, 107 S. Ct. 533 (1986) (quoting Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 788-789 n.9, 75 L. Ed. 2d 547, 103 S. Ct. 1564 (1983)). See also American Party of Texas v. White, 415 U.S. 767, 783, 39 L. Ed. 2d 744, 94 S. Ct. 1296 (1974); Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431, 442, 29 L. Ed. 2d 554, 91 S. Ct. 1970 (1971). As the Court said in Anderson, supra:

 

We have recognized that, "as a practical matter, there must be a substantial regulation of elections if they are to be fair and honest and if some sort of order, rather than chaos, is to accompany the democratic processes." To achieve these necessary objectives, States have enacted comprehensive and sometimes complex election codes . . . . The State's important regulatory interests are generally sufficient to justify reasonable, nondiscriminatory restrictions.

 Anderson, 460 U.S. at 788 (citation omitted).

 The signature requirements challenged by Trinsey in this case do not pose an unreasonable burden on candidates of major political parties. *fn5" As Judge Shapiro said in Consumer Party, supra, in passing reference to the statute at issue here: "With regard to the major parties, the [signature] requirement [of § 2872.1] imposes a de minimus burden." Consumer Party, 633 F. Supp. 877 at 888. In fact, signature requirements more burdensome than those at issue here have withstood constitutional scrutiny. See, e.g., Storer, 415 U.S. 724 at 740 (noting that gathering 325,000 signatures in 24 days not per se unconstitutional); Valenti v. Mitchell, 962 F.2d 288, 299-300 (3d Cir. 1992) (noting that eight to nine day period to collect 1,000 signatures not per se unconstitutional); Perry, 775 F. Supp. at 826-27 (upholding as constitutional requirement to collect 41,305 signatures within 149 days); Black v. Cook County Officers Electoral Bd., 750 F. Supp. 901, 908 (N.D. Ill. 1990) (granting defendants' motion to dismiss and holding that requirement to gather 25,000 signatures not unconstitutional); Williams v. Tucker, 382 F. Supp. 381, 386 (M.D. Pa. 1974) (holding requirement to gather 2,452 signatures within 21 days constitutional). In light of the above precedent, this court finds Trinsey's suggestion that collecting 2,000 signatures within 22 days violates the Constitution is quite simply without merit. *fn6"

 B. Changing the Primary Date

 Trinsey sets forth no basis for why this court should change the date of Pennsylvania's primary election. Rather, Trinsey simply states: "The 1994 Spring Primary must be moved to September 13, 1994." (Compl. at 8, P 13) This suggestion is patently frivolous. Article I, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides that "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof . . . ." Pennsylvania has designated by statute that "there shall be a General primary preceding each general election which shall be held on the third Tuesday of May in all even-numbered years . . . ." 25 P.S. § 2753. As the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted, "the state's interest in a timely and orderly election is strong" as is "the strong state interest in holding its primary as scheduled . . . ." Valenti, 962 F.2d at 301. This court finds no basis whatsoever to reschedule Pennsylvania's primary.

 C. Right to Funds from Republican State Committee

 Trinsey's final allegation fares no better than his others. Trinsey suggests that as a "rank and file" member of the Republican Party who is attempting to be elected, he is entitled to "an equal right, fair share of the GOP funds available for the 1994 Republican primary." (Compl. at 8, P 15) There is no constitutional basis or other theory to support this argument. The RSC has a First Amendment right to support whichever candidate it chooses in the primary. See generally Eu v. San Francisco Democratic Comm., 489 U.S. 214, 224, 103 L. Ed. 2d 271, 109 S. Ct. 1013 (1989) (holding that political organizations have the right to support candidate of their choice).

 IV. Conclusion

 The court recognizes Trinsey's continuing efforts in the election and voter rights arena. However, as the Supreme Court has continually recognized, states have an interest in "preserving the integrity of the electoral process and in regulating the number of candidates on the ballot . . . ." Munro, 479 U.S. at 194. Based on the foregoing analysis, Trinsey's complaint will be dismissed. An appropriate order follows.

 BY THE COURT:

 Edward N. Cahn, Chief Judge

 ORDER

 CAHN, J.

 AND NOW, this 17th day of March, 1994, upon consideration of defendants' motion to dismiss, and plaintiff's response thereto, it is hereby ORDERED that the defendants' motion is GRANTED. The within case is hereby dismissed and the clerk of courts is ordered to close the case for statistical purposes.

 BY THE COURT:

 Edward N. Cahn, Chief Judge


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