HOLLIDAYSBURG – A state appeals judge has approved a Blair County court ruling allowing a Hollidaysburg city councilor to amend his candidate’s petition to get his name on the May 18 ballot.
Based on a recent ruling by Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt, President of the Commonwealth Court, candidate Sean Burke may be a candidate for the fourth seat of the ward council.
Leavitt’s ruling upheld a ruling Clearfield County Judge Paul E. Cherry made in late March on behalf of the Blair County Court.
Cherry, who called a hearing to consider objections to Burke’s candidate petition, concluded that Burke could remedy a flaw by amending his petition to include a signing date that was mistakenly omitted.
Fourth Ward residents Richard Latker and Kirk Saleme, who are on the ballot for the Fourth Ward council seat, appealed Cherry’s decision to Commonwealth Court.
Leavitt, on answering the call, acknowledged that “A missing date is an apparent defect on the front of the nomination petition” based on article 908 of the state electoral code. She also pointed out, however, that the Commonwealth Court allowed the candidates to modify these flaws. She referred to a 2018 ruling in which the Commonwealth Court dismissed an objection to a nomination petition in which the candidate presented affidavits from voters stating that they had incorrectly dated their signatures and indicating the actual signing date. .
Leavitt also referred to a 2010 Commonwealth Court ruling that accepted an affidavit from voters that they mistakenly wrote a postcode instead of a date on the signature line. In their affidavits, she said the signatories provided the candidate’s actual petition signing dates.
In a review of the hearing convened by Cherry, Leavitt referred to testimony that attorney Joel C. Seelye arranged on Burke’s behalf.
Seelye asked signatory Dianne Stultz, who lives in the 4th room, to verify that she signed Burke’s petition and wrote her name in a space reserved for the date. Seelye presented testimony from Stultz’s husband John, who signed before his wife, and Bryan Caporuscio, who signed immediately after, to claim that they signed Burke’s petition on March 1, 2021 and that Dianne Stultz had signed the same day.
“The trial court did not err in allowing the candidate’s motion to amend the nomination petition,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt also rejected arguments made by Latker and Saleme in their appeal, pointing out that Burke had falsely signed an affidavit on his petition stating that it was correct when there were flaws.
“If the objectors were correct, it would nullify the possibility of modifying a nomination petition, as permitted by article 977 of the Election Code,” Leavitt wrote.
She also addressed another objection in the appeal, proposing that the handwriting at the top of the petition, usually completed by the nominee, be similar to the handwriting of someone who signed the petition.
Leavitt noted that when this issue came up before Cherry, he told Latker to “pass” because it was not raised in the initial objection to the candidate’s petition.
Cherry was right, Leavitt wrote, refusing to allow testimony about it.
Leavitt’s decision also allows the May 18 poll to remain intact. On April 13, the county election board voted to proceed with preparations for the ballot that would put and keep Burke’s name on the ballot. If the Commonwealth Court had overturned Cherry’s decision and struck down Burke’s petition, the county elections office was prepared to put up signage in the compound to notify voters of the action.
Editor Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.