Nominating petitions under increasing scrutiny

    When Pennsylvania voters head to the polls eight weeks from now, they may see fewer candidates on the ballot than had originally sought to run. One reason for the drop is the rising number of challenges to nominating petitions.

    When Pennsylvania voters head to the polls eight weeks from now, they may see fewer candidates on the ballot than had originally sought to run. One reason for the drop is the rising number of challenges to nominating petitions.

    Two years ago, in 2008, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court handled 77 challenges to nominating petitions. This year, about 100 challenges are expected.  These challenges question the validity of the signatures collected for the petition.

    Franklin and Marshall political science professor Terry Madonna says more and more candidates see such challenges as a smart campaign strategy.

    MADONNA: “The challenging of petitions has become professionalized. Meaning that there are folks who specialize in doing it and campaigns realize that securing large numbers of petitions if not done properly are fairly easy to get a candidate knocked off the ballot.”

    Gregory Harvey is an attorney who specializes in election law. Harvey says the spike in petition challenges is also driven, on the Democratic side, by vulnerable incumbents.

    HARVEY: “The Democratic Party, especially in the state House of Representatives, is very concerned to try to hold its narrow majority position which has been under attack.”

    Harvey says on the Republican side, party stalwarts could be using petition challenges to fend off insurgent Tea Party candidates across the state.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.