April 29th, 2010
On April 29, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a one-word “opinion” in the case known as In re: Objection to Nomination Petition of Pia Varma, 12 EAP 2010. That word is “affirmed”.
Pia Varma is the only person who tried to get on the Republican primary ballot, set for May 18, for U.S. House, First District, a district in Philadelphia. Her petition, which required 1,000 signatures of registered Republicans, was challenged because some of her signatures had been collected by registered Republicans who live outside the First District. The lower court had sustained the objection, without noting that in 2002, a U.S. District Court in the eastern district (which covers Philadelphia) had ruled it unconstitutional to require circulators to live in the same district that the candidate is running in.
As a result of the Supreme Court’s refusing to hear the candidate’s appeal, Republicans in the First District will see a primary ballot with no candidates’ names printed on the ballot. Anyone may be a write-in candidate in Pennsylvania primaries, but no one is deemed nominated unless they poll at least 1,000 write-ins.
The lower court had not dealt with the constitutional issue. When the candidate appealed, the objectors argued that she could not legitimately raise the constitutional issue in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because she had not raised it in the lower court. Actually, when the case was in the lower court, Varma didn’t have an attorney and did not realize that she could have argued the constitutional issue herself.
The federal decision that had struck down the residency requirement for circulators is Morrill v Weaver, 224 F Supp 2d 882. Technically that decision struck down the residency requirement for petitions for independent candidates, not petitions for getting a candidate on a primary ballot. But the logic of one applies equally to the other