Meadville Tribune

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April 15, 2014

Court tosses Marin from ballot; LaValle is sole Democrat seeking nomination for 3rd District U.S. House seat

MEADVILLE — Saying the testimony of Congressional candidate Mel Marin of Sharon wasn’t credible, the Commonwealth Court has ordered Marin’s name removed from the Democratic Party’s ballot for one of Crawford County’s Congressional seats in the May primary because Marin now has less than the required 1,000 valid signatures.

Judge Bernard McGinley has declared as invalid 249 out of the 1,160 signatures on Marin’s nomination petitions. Marin was one of two Democrats running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes almost all of Crawford County.

McGinley’s ruling that 249 signatures are invalid puts Marin’s total valid signatures at 911 — which is 89 below the required minimum 1,000 valid signatures needed under Pennsylvania’s election laws.

An objection to the validity of Marin’s nomination petitions was filed with Commonwealth Court on March 18 by Charles Rice, chairman of the Mercer County Democratic Party.

At a Commonwealth Court hearing Thursday in Pittsburgh before McGinley, the two sides agreed there were 1,160 signatures submitted by Marin.

At that hearing, the two sides stipulated 31 signatures on Marin’s petitions were invalid because the signer either was not a registered Democrat, not registered to vote in the Congressional District, not registered to vote at all or was registered at a different address than was listed on the nomination petition.

Another three signatures on Marin’s petitions from Armstrong County were stricken by McGinley following the testimony of Wendy J. Buzzard, Armstrong’s director of elections and voter registration. Buzzard testified one was invalid because the signature was crossed out; the second, because the signer wasn’t a registered Democrat; and the third, because the signer wasn’t a registered voter.

The two sides stipulated that another 215 signatures contained information that was done in the hand of another person. Pennsylvania’s election law requires the signature as well as the printed name and address of the registered voter be done by the registered voter.

At the hearing, Marin admitted he filled in the address and/or date portions for those 215 signees in question because they were too infirm to do it themselves.

McGinley’s ruling turned on Marin’s admission to that fact.

“According to candidate (Marin), these individuals could no more than sign and print their names on the petition and would then give it back to him,” McGinley wrote in his opinion issued Monday. “Additionally, approximately a dozen times, electors would sign their names, but a spouse would fill in the other information. Also, approximately a dozen times, candidate (Marin) completed the information for an elector because the elector’s handwriting was illegible.”

“This court does not find candidate (Marin) credible regarding the physical condition of the signers of the 215 signature lines at issue,” McGinley wrote.

“Therefore, a total of 249 signatures are invalid,” McGinley wrote, based on the stipulations agreed to by both sides and Marin’s admission to filling in parts of the petition. “Subtracting 249 signatures from the total of 1,160 signatures obtained results in a total of 911 valid signatures.”

Attorney Charles Pascal Jr., who represented Rice, said he was pleased with the ruling. “It was what we expected the judge to say,” Pascal said.

In a nearly 600-word email to the Tribune late Monday afternoon, Marin said McGinley’s ruling could not be separated from the reason his petitions were challenged.

“The attack was brought against me by the Mercer Democratic Party two years ago and this year, and I was kicked off both times because I am the only Democrat running who refused to pledge allegiance to the same-sex agenda, which includes same-sex marriage and forced adoptions of innocent children, and forced education of kids in schools to teach them to be homosexual,” Marin said in his statement. “I am a moderate Democrat. The party in Mercer is so extremely liberal that they have no room for moderates anymore. They push them out of the party.”

Two years ago, Marin’s name was removed from the 2012 primary ballot for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 3rd District after a Commonwealth Court judge ruled Marin didn’t have the minimum 1,000 valid signatures required for his petitions.

“Here, while over 900 of the signatures I collected were from healthy young people, the rest were from seniors who needed help filling-in the names of the city they live in like Sharon. But the judge said he did not believe there were over 100 sick voters in Erie, Mercer, Armstrong and Lawrence counties all put together, so he refused to count all of the ones that I helped and that left me with only 900 which is less than the 1,000 signatures required. Sounds fishy to me. There are 300,000 registered voters and the judge does not believe there are 100 sick people in that group.”

The removal of Marin’s name leaves only Daniel C. LaVallee of Cranberry Township, Butler County, on the Democratic Party ballot for nomination for the 3rd District in the May primary. LaVallee is expected to face off against incumbent Republican Mike Kelly of Butler in November. Kelly is unopposed in his bid for the Republican Party’s nomination.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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