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Judge rules on ballot names, some to stay, some to go

October 04, 2006|by DON AINES

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruling Monday was a split decision for nine St. Thomas Township residents whose nomination papers for election to a local government study commission had been challenged.

The 10-page opinion and order filed by Senior Judge Jonathan B. Quigley ruled that John S. Smith, Thomas M. Hull and former township supervisors Edmund G. Herald and David C. Ramer shall be on the Nov. 7 ballot. Quigley ruled that the names of James E. Light, Mark A. Lynch, Clara M. May, Wanda L. Walls and Township Supervisor James Faith Jr. will not be on the ballot.

The nomination papers of the nine were challenged in Franklin County Common Pleas Court by Fred Walls, one of seven other candidates running for the seven-member commission that would be appointed if voters also approve a referendum to establish a commission to study the township's government.

In September, Franklin County Judge John Walker ruled all of the candidates could appear on the ballot, citing the failure of the state and county to provide proper nomination forms to the candidates. Walls appealed Walker's decision to Commonwealth Court.

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The study commission is a requirement under the state's Home Rule Charter. Walls and the other six candidates endorsed by St. Thomas Alliance for a New Direction (STAND) used nomination papers drafted with the help of an attorney.

Walls said Tuesday that he would not appeal Monday's decision to a higher court.

"Our group went to a lot of work to do it right," Walls said Tuesday. "We just wanted to see if the people did it right ... They didn't even follow all the instructions on the papers they had," he said of the challenged candidates.

"The papers of the appellees certainly appear to have been circulated in good faith, and the difficulty in obtaining the proper forms and instructions from the (Franklin County Election Board) is troubling," Quigley wrote.

One of the challenges was that the candidates failed to name a vacancy committee, which would select a candidate's successor should they withdraw before the election.

The Franklin County Board of Elections filed a friend of the court brief with Commonwealth Court noting the Pennsylvania Department of State had no forms for the office of government study commissioner and advised that a vacancy committee did not have to be named.

Quigley wrote that was not an "incurable defect" in and of itself and, "coupled with the confusion over the proper form of petitions, we disagree ... that the failure to name a vacancy committee is fatal to the remaining nomination papers."

Lynch, May, Faith and Light were stricken from the ballot because the person who circulated their petitions did not also sign the circulator's affidavit, Quigley ruled. Wanda Walls was stricken from the ballot for failure to correctly fill out the financial interests statement, Quigley wrote.

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