Philly Commissioner Singer’s fight to appear on May 19 ballot continues

 City Commissioner Stephanie Singer arrives at Common Pleas Court Thursday to appeal an order to remove her from the primary election ballot. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer arrives at Common Pleas Court Thursday to appeal an order to remove her from the primary election ballot. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A Philadelphia judge has agreed to prolong City Commissioner Stephanie Singer’s case over whether her name can appear on the May 19 primary ballot. As it stands, however, her name will be absent from the ballot.

 Last week, Common Pleas Court Judge Joel Johnson ordered Singer’s name off the primary ballot after a legal challenge disqualified enough voter signatures from her nominating petition. The challenge by three voters is being financed by a Singer opponent.

In a post-trial hearing Thursday, the judge agreed to hear testimony from handwriting expert William J. Reese, whom Singer’s team says failed to follow court procedure and “didn’t do his homework” in preparing an analysis of voter signatures. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Singer wants to run for a second term as the top official overseeing the city’s elections after a turbulent first term that included ethics violations and a Singer aide being investigated for inappropriate political activity.

Nonetheless, Singer submitted 1,485 signatures to qualify for the May ballot. Following close scrutiny over four days, only 996 signatures survived the challenges, leaving her four votes short.

“When a party presents expert testimony, the party who is on the other side has a right to evaluate the credentials, experience and preparation of the expert. We never had our opportunity to examine this expert, their expert, about what he did to prepare,” Chuck Goodwin, Singer’s attorney, said after Thursday’s hearing.

Singer’s team has said it will continue to dispute the signature tally. 

“We have collected and submitted the signatures to be on the Democratic primary ballot. We will appeal this decision, and we will win. We will not allow the enemies of reform to silence our voices,” Singer said in a statement.

Johnson refused to accept statements from 16 voters who now say their signatures were improperly thrown out. Johnson said he already ruled on the matter and that Singer had plenty of time to bring such statements forward over the four-day trial.

Richard Hoy, an attorney with the voters questioning Singer’s signatures, said bringing the handwriting expert to another hearing could, in fact, end up costing Singer even more signatures.

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