Will John Kasich be on the ballot in the Pennsylvania primary?

The Pennsylvania GOP primary is still more than month off (April 26th), but Ohio Governor John Kasich has a message for Marco Rubio: tell your friends to stop trying to keep me off the ballot. That would normally be a curious thing to hear on the campaign trail, but this time it’s a serious question. As we learned last week, Kasich may have failed to qualify for a spot on the ballot due to a technicality. (Yahoo Finance)

John Kasich’s presidential campaign called on Marco Rubio to tell his supporters in Pennsylvania to drop a lawsuit that could keep the Ohio governor off the ballot for the state’s April 26 primary.

Nathaniel Rome, chairman of Pennsylvania Students for Rubio, filed a petition in Pennsylvania court to keep Kasich off the ballot, since he failed to garner the requisite number of signatures to be added. Rome’s lawyer is John Bravacos, the brother of Chris Bravacos, who is chairman of Rubio’s Pennsylvania campaign.

The suit being brought by the Rome brothers may look like sour grapes, but it’s obviously legitimate and the Kasich campaign has said as much. You need 2,000 signatures in the Keystone State to be on the ballot. As one of the initial, local reports from the Post Gazette revealed, Kasich missed that target once all the challenges were settled.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s own lawyer agrees the presidential campaign submitted fewer valid signatures than are required for the candidate to appear on Pennsylvania’s primary ballot. But he argued in court Wednesday that it doesn’t matter because an objection to Mr. Kasich’s nominating petitions was filed 13 minutes too late.

At issue is whether challenges to Pennsylvania nominating petitions are due by 5 p.m. or 11:59 p.m. on the last day to file.

Attorneys for Mr. Kasich and the objector have stipulated that the campaign filed no more than 2,184 signatures with the state, and that 192 of those signatures were not valid. Republican and Democratic candidates for president must submit 2,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.

This is one of countless areas of the law (election and otherwise) which are probably frustrating to many of us. Kasich turned in more than 2,000 signatures, but any competent campaign knows that your signature sheets will always be challenged by your opponents so you should be sure to gather a significantly higher number to leave yourself a buffer. If your total after disqualified signatures comes in under the minimum number then you have technically failed to meet the requirements. But even though the Kasich team admits they fell short, the challenge from Rubio’s Super PAC arrived a few minutes past the deadline for challenges. So if you knowingly failed to qualify but nobody challenges it in time, should you be allowed on the ballot? If a tree falls in the forest…

Is it going to matter in the end? History shows us that it seems to depend on the whims of the state government and the courts. One of the more glaring examples of state election law potentially tripping up a candidate came when President George W. Bush missed the filing deadline in Florida by one day during the 2004 election. That was a strange one because the GOP convention went so late in the cycle that year that Bush and Cheney weren’t officially named the nominees until September 1st, which was coincidentally the filing deadline in Florida. Bush filed the next day – one day late – but both the Democrats and the Florida Secretary of State declined to challenge him and he showed up on the ballot anyway.

When the smoke cleared, Bush won that election in the electoral college 286 to 251. If Florida’s 27 electoral votes had gone the other way, John Kerry would have been president. So was justice served? The filing error was clearly a technicality caused by the byzantine patchwork of election laws and party primary rules across the country which frequently collide in unusual ways. But then… the law is the law, no? Sticky questions to be sure, but personally speaking, I doubt that Pennsylvania will throw Kasich off the ballot for this.


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