Judge invalidates ballot petition for Elizabeth-area magistrate candidate
Magisterial District Judge Beth Scagline-Mills will have competition in the May 21 Republican primary, but not in the Democratic primary.
At a hearing in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James invalidated Kenneth Ray Lawson's Democratic petitions in District 5-2-16.
James rejected an argument by attorney Matthew D. Racunas about mailing addresses listed on Lawson's Republican petitions.
District 5-2-16 covers Elizabeth, Elizabeth Township, Forward and West Elizabeth. Scagline-Mills and Lawson live in Forward.
Some Elizabeth Township signers listed a McKeesport 15135 address, using an Elizabeth Township ZIP code. Others listed Buena Vista, a part of Elizabeth Township.
“Those are not invalid,” James said about two signers. “I will not strike them.”
“Based on that ruling, we are going to withdraw our objection,” Racunas said.
County elections director Mark Wolosik said Commonwealth Court ruled and state Supreme Court affirmed in 2006 that what a voter puts down on a petition is valid if it matches what is on his registration card.
There was at least one case in which a woman registered by her maiden name signed with her married name. James invalidated that signature.
Racunas challenged Lawson on behalf of Scagline-Mills, a registered Democrat.
“I think my attorney did a great job,” Scagline-Mills said.
He also represented Elizabeth's Republican council vice president Robin Miller.
Lawson did not attend Tuesday's hearing.
“We served him personally by constable,” Racunas told James. “Additionally, I tried to call him.”
Racunas said the only telephone number he could find for Lawson had been disconnected.
To cross-file against Scagline-Mills, Lawson submitted two petitions with 127 signatures apiece; 100 signatures were needed to qualify for each party's ballot.
On the Democratic side, technicalities and other problems reduced the number of valid signatures to 99.
Before Tuesday's hearing, Racunas, his associate Kristin Mackulin and attorneys for the county Elections Division agreed that 15 signatures could be removed from the Democratic petitions.
In at least three cases before James, it appeared that the same signer filled in two slots on the petition.
“The signatures look different but printing looks the same,” the judge remarked.
The attorneys did not work on the GOP petitions, but the judge found problems there, too.
“I can't read the signature and I can barely read the printed name,” James said about one signer. “I don't care to guess.”
Racunas offered a Hatch Act argument against Lawson, who has been working as a police officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Pittsburgh.
“Individuals employed by a federal agency are specifically prohibited from being a candidate for an elective office,” according to the paperwork Racunas filed on behalf of Miller.
James conceded that Lawson could be liable for “criminal sanctions” and that “he could be removed from his job.”
The judge reserved a ruling on the objection, citing a state Supreme Court precedent.
“You can run for the office,” James said. “You just can't be seated.”
Lawson can appeal his removal from the Democratic ballot to Commonwealth Court.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Homestead to celebrate one of its own at jazz festival
- East Allegheny teachers to hit the picket lines
- Flexible-use building in the works for Duquesne
- McKeesport Area, South Allegheny districts upgrade school security
- McKeesport Rib Festival wraps up with Monday concert, fireworks show
- Elizabeth area police continue probe of daylight burglaries
- 2 held for arraignments in Munhall gun case
- Sex offender held for court in address registration case