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Connellsville council candidate's signatures may be ruled invalid

| Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Many of the signatures contained on a Connellsville man's nominating petitions to run for city council appear to be invalid, according to the director of the Fayette County Election Bureau.

Tim Bechtold of South Pittsburgh Street is seeking the Democratic nomination for council, but 42 of 125 signatures on his nominating petitions have been challenged by Judith Keller of Wills Road.

During a hearing on Monday before Judge Nancy Vernon, Election Bureau Director Larry Blosser went over each of the challenged signatures. Blosser said some contained names or addresses that did not match the signer's voter registration, came from registered Republicans or individuals with no party affiliation, or were signed days before the signers' voter registrations became valid.

Bechtold did not present witnesses during the hearing, but he asked Vernon not to toss his nominating petition because of “technicalities.” Some of the incorrect addresses were off by only one number, he said, and some names did not match voter registration records because the individuals got married and forgot to update their records.

He said there was no intention to commit fraud.

“This was obviously a witch hunt,” Bechtold said. “I've done nothing to think there was any intent at fraud.”

Blosser said after the hearing that Bechtold needed 100 signatures to get his name on the ballot.

Bechtold said that if most of the signatures are found to be invalid, he will have missed that number by only a “handful.”

Vernon did not immediately rule on Keller's request but indicated she will do so “expeditiously.”

Bechtold is a member of the Connellsville Health Board. Keller is Connellsville's treasurer.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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