What Fresh Hell Is This?

September 3, 2009


I've taken petitions around for numerous candidates to get them on a ballot. Some of you may have as well.

If you have, you know the drill. (You pretty much can repeat it in your sleep.)

1) You caution folks that their signature has to be legible (don't sign it like you'd sign for your debit/credit card).

2) You give them the right date to enter (because you don't want, say, signatures dated 2/11/09, then one after those signed 2/10/09, then others following with 2/12/09 -- got's to be chronological order).

3) And, you tell them to write out "Pittsburgh" even though there's not a lot of room. If they screw up and write "PGH" you let them know that it leaves an opening for some douchenozzle to waste time and money on a challenge, but ultimately their entry won't be thrown out on that basis alone (mostly I believe because the US Postal Service accepts that as an abbreviation).

So what do we know about the challenge of Franco Dok Harris' petitions from "lawyers tied to the campaign of another independent mayoral candidate, Kevin Acklin"?

Well, first we know that the Acklin campaign put out a telephone conference for the media, a downloadable, colorful 11-page .pdf, and a follow up summary email all disputing Harris' right to be on the ballot the morning of the court challenge.

We know that Harris won the court challenge.

And, we know that 'the challenge included questions about voters who failed to spell out “Pittsburgh” and wrote “PGH” on the petition' (according to the Harris campaign).

I'm surprised that Republican newly independent candidate Acklin didn't work in ACORN into his presentation to the media.

Douchebaggery indeed.

Was it worth it?

Thankfully, we seem to be back on track today with both Harris and Acklin calling for debates and Lil Mayor Luke -- as expected -- not responding.


Mike said...

Don't forget that you only write "Pittsburgh" if you actually live in the City of Pittsburgh.

Also, if you live in McCandless, put down McCandless, and not Pittsburgh, Wexford, Allison Park or North Allegheny.

The whole thing is kind of silly, because only an idiot or attorney would not be able to determine where you really lived.

Steeler said...

Another Republican/Rove trick trying to suppress the vote, most likely from minorities. Didn't hAcklin do this before? Didn't he lose?

Steeler said...

Oh, I bet people were just excited to sign anything associated with Harris. I bet that is why they tried to get so many signatures! Too many excited people.

Maria said...

There's always people who sign these things who aren't qualified. Everyone knows that which is why you always try to get at least three times the minimum amount required.

Richmond K. Turner said...

Lest we forget, if Barack Obama had not been a "douchebag" -- your words, not mine! -- he would never have gotten into the Illinois Senate. And would likely not be President today. Because he enganged in almost exactly the same kind of "douchebaggery" to keep Alice Palmer off the ballot during his first run at the state senate.

I also note that Mike Doyle did the exact same thing to the Green Party candidate a few years ago, forcing the poor guy to go all the way to Harrisburg and live in a bloody tent to defend the challenges to each and every signature on his petitions.

It would seem that we are surrounded by douchebags. But, in the President's case, most of us are glad that he was a big enough douchebag to win that round, and to get where he is today.

Bram Reichbaum said...

I was unaware 'till now of the colorful 11-page pdf. I am an avid fan of the term 'Schnozzle'.

Maria said...

@RKT: I remember applauding Obama's Palmer strategy. Not.

I assume God, or his roomies in the "C Street House" told Doyle to challenge his opponent.

But back to this race. Harris did what he needed to do and turned in three times as many signatures as needed which is why he survived the challenge (Palmer only had 2xs the total needed).

I will repeat that challenging "PGH" is douchey no matter who does it.

@Bram: let me know if you want a copy of the PDF. As for the phone press conference, I was late dialing in. It didn't last long and I managed to miss it entirely.

Agent Ska said...

Sometimes I feel the urge to send this link to him but then I decide against it.


Maria said...


I had an unpleasant run-in with an Acklin supporter at the Thursday night Netroots Nation party at the Warhol.

Very obnoxious fellow.

I don't know how anyone ever thinks that it helps their candidate to be so confrontational.

And, no, I don't blame Acklin personally for this guy. I'm just noting that it's stupid for supporters of anyone to act nasty in public -- you may be the only real life connection that some onlooking undecided voter has to your candidate.

Bram Reichbaum said...

@S - I'm not a big fan of the identity wedge agit-prop. Just sayin'.

Maria - Yeah, I'd like a copy. Send it to me whenever, like preferably after the 3rd debate. ;)

emma said...

The biggest problem here is that you are taking as fact the lie that the Harris campaign is spreading. I saw a copy of the challenge, and nobody was challenging "PGH".

The Harris campaign actually barely survived the challenge, and they only did so because the judge ruled that the circulator who was from Allison Park would have her signatures counted.

Maria said...

Acklin supporters claimed that some 2,500 signatures were invalid. Did you look at all those signature lines to see what claims were made against each signature?

From Acklin's own press release:

According to the petition filed to set aside the Harris nomination papers, 67% of the signatures submitted were invalid. The remaining 825 valid signatures are significantly less than the number required for ballot access.

• The Harris campaign submitted over 400 signatures from electors who identified a residence outside the City of Pittsburgh, such as Bethel Park, Fox Chapel, or Sewickley.

• The Harris campaign submitted over 1,000 signatures from electors not registered to vote in the City of Pittsburgh.

• Other errors from the Harris nomination papers include: the circulation of pages with no candidate information on them, the circulation of pages by an elector who resided in Allison Park, and the incorrect identification of the candidate’s own ward and district on his Candidate Affidavit form.

So they identify only 1,400 specifically with a reason. That leaves over 1,000 that they're saying were for other errors "which include..." That does not say that other reasons weren't claimed as errors as well..

I've seen signature challenges.

Teams go line-by-line through every petition and note all kinds of supposed errors including things like legibility, signing were you're supposed to print and printing where you're supposed to sign, entering "PGH", etc.)

Have you actually looked at all 2,500 supposed errors that you can verify that there weren't any marked for error for things like entering "PGH"?

emma said...

The challenge itself is public information. You are right that there are quite a few pages that list the objections by line, but there's about 10 pages in front that outline each type of objection and make the legal arguments. Abbreviating the city name is not there. Has anyone produced any evidence to show that they DID challenge "PGH"? If it's true, it should be pretty easy to verify.

Maria said...

Funny, but here's what WTAE reported:

Supporters of one of his opponents, independent candidate Kevin Acklin, say the majority of the signatures on Harris' petitions are invalid.

They claim people who signed the petitions either do not live in the city or did not print their name or address correctly on the petitions.

"All of those things seem like so much trivia, but they're all part and parcel of what is expected of any candidate who is trying to get his name on the ballot," said Andy Gastmeyer, Acklin's press secretary.

Acklin's own press secretary acknowledges the triviality and that errors included "people who signed the petitions...did not print their name or address correctly on the petitions."

emma said...

There's a difference between a challenge for a bad address (which could mean that the person is not registered there) and a challenge for writing "PGH" (again, still waiting for someone to show some evidence that this was challenged).

Maria said...

"There's a difference between a challenge for a bad address (which could mean that the person is not registered there)" or could mean that they did not "did not print their name or address correctly on the petitions" meaning they wrote Chris instead of Christopher or PGH instead of Pittsburgh.

Joy said...

Interpretation of signature requirements is an ever-changing part of the law. Here are some updates (good as of 2 years ago, when I was pretty deeply involved in a petition challenge).

1. There is no longer a legibility requirement for the signature. Their signature should be signed as it is on their voter registration form. For most people, that is a "neat" form of their signature. You will get fewer challenges for "too neat" than "too messy'" on average; however, both sorts of challenges are possible. As a side note, some "motorvoter" registrations do not capture a signature. If this is the case, the signature can be challenged simply because there is nothing to compare to. (This REALLY should be fixed by mailing signature cards to people with missing signature fields, IMHO.)

2. Pgh is OK. Most campaigns will not bother to challenge on that basis, because it has consistently been ruled OK in recent years. Acklin's campaign are twits if they did that.

3. postal address in place of municipality has also been recognized as acceptable. (e.g. you live in Verona or Wilkinsburg, but your mailing address says Pittsburgh). Many campaigns are not aware of this ruling. People therefore continue to challenge on that basis. But if you are a candidate whose petitions have been challenged, you should know to stipulate all those signatures as a class "mailing address for municipality," and reference the ruling. Chuck Pascal Esq. does a fantastic job on this stuff, BTW.

4. missing middle initial is similarly a non-issue unless there is someone else of the same name, but different middle initial, at that address. But people still challenge on that basis.

5. Most "imperfect form of name" challenges can be counter-challenged by a signature match. You can match signatures using the county's database, but only at the elections department itself.

6. Many campaigns will challenge an address as fake, if it is somewhat hard to read. These are counter-challenged by finding the correct record, which is often as simple as (e.g.) deciphering whether a sloppy number is a 5 or a 6, and whether that first letter is a capital F or capital T.

7. we were faced with a signature expert who claimed that some of the signatures were forgeries, or at least, definitely not by the same hand as the person who signed the signature card. In every case, when we managed to track down and drive out to the address with a notary, the person in question was willing to sign a notarized statement that they had, in fact, signed the petition in question.

So now you know some of the ways that campaigns waste each others' time, and your money. I have considered bringing a videocamera with me for signature collection, and asking people to flash their driver's licenses, and state their names, and what they have signed. Yeah, it'd be a hassle, but if that were accepted in court, think what a time- and money saver it would be.