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Candidates begin circulating petitions

February 17, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Franklin County Jury Commissioner Allen Twigg needed 100 signatures on his nominating petition to secure a place on the May 19 primary ballot and had 73 by Tuesday afternoon, the first day to circulate the petitions.

"I try to get 200 ... I just like to have some extra ones. And it's a good way to contact the voters," said Twigg.

Having more than the minimum number is also a hedge against mistakes that can result in signatures being challenged, he said.

Scores of school board, borough and township offices are up for election this year in the county, along with 22 tax collectors, three county offices, two seats on the 39th District of the Court of Common Pleas, two magisterial district judge seats, constables, and judges and inspectors of elections. Candidates have until March 10 to get their petitions filled and filed at the courthouse, but several were already there Tuesday collecting signatures.

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Common pleas court judges, who serve all of Franklin and Fulton counties, are not to be confused with magisterial district judges, who serve smaller geographic areas. Voters will elect a common pleas court judge to fill the vacancy created by Judge John Walker's retirement and another for a newly created fifth judgeship.

There also is a retention election in November for Judge Carol Van Horn. Retention elections are an up-or-down vote on whether a judge will serve another 10-year term, not a competitive election.

Judge candidates can cross-file and need 250 signatures each from Republicans and Democrats to appear on both ballots. District judge candidates and those seeking countywide office need 100 signatures, according to election law.

Municipal and school district candidates need 10 signatures.

To sign a petition a voter must:

o Be a registered Democrat or Republican

o Live within the municipality, district or other political subdivision in which the candidate is seeking office

o Write down their street address and municipality

"That's a big one. Instead of listing their township or borough, which is what is required, they write down their mailing address," County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said.

A person living Greene or Guilford townships, for example, might have a Chambersburg mailing address, she said.

People living at the same address must completely fill out the signature lines, Byers said. Using "ditto marks" to indicate the signers all live at the same address is not allowed, she said.

Some candidates fail to complete ethics forms and file copies with the municipality or school district, as well as the county, Byers said. Candidates have been successfully challenged for failing to file copies with their municipality or district, she said.

School board candidates, while they can cross-file to run in both primaries, can only circulate the petition for the party with which they are registered, Byers said. A Republican school board candidate would need a Democrat to circulate petitions for Democratic signatures.

However, that is not the case for judicial candidates, who may personally circulate petitions for both parties, Byers said.




Dates to know



Some important dates in 2009's Pennsylvania election cycle:

Feb. 17: First day to circulate and file nominating petitions

March 10: Last day to circulate and file nominating petitions

April 20: Last day to register before the primary

May 19: Municipal primary

Oct. 5: Last day to register for the municipal election

Nov. 3: Municipal election

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