HARRISBURG -- State Democrats are likely to challenge the legality of ballot petitions for the Green Party's U.S. Senate candidate, Carl Romanelli.
State Democratic Chairman T.J. Rooney said yesterday he's reviewed about 40,000 of the 80,000 signatures the Greens turned in, and he claimed as much as 80 percent of them were invalid. Mr. Romanelli disputes that claim.
In some instances, Mr. Rooney contended, petition signers didn't write legibly or weren't registered voters or didn't write correct addresses, as election law requires.
"We have found excessive and serious instances of multiple signatures by the same persons, unregistered voters and fake names," Mr. Rooney said.
To get on the ballot this year, all third party and independent candidates were required to collect 67,070 valid signatures on their petitions. That means Democrats would need to invalidate about 13,000 signatures to have Mr. Romanelli kicked off the November ballot.
Many of the signatures on the Green Party petitions were collected by a Florida-based firm, JSM Inc., which has faced allegations of fraud in past elections. The firm pays its employees for every signature collected.
Mr. Romanelli defended the legitimacy of his petitions, saying his campaign reviewed them all to check that the signatures were legible and the forms filled out correctly.
"With the exercise we've been through and the care we've taken, it cannot possibly be" that eight of every 10 signatures is invalid, Mr. Romanelli insisted.
The Green Party randomly sampled signatures to check their authenticity, and often found validity rates of as high as 80 percent, he added. Sometimes those rates were lower, but never as low as 20 percent, he said.
"We stand behind the petitions and are prepared to defend them with the confidence and belief that we will prevail," Mr. Romanelli said.
Mr. Rooney said Democrats have teams of lawyers and volunteers across the state working to review every line of the petitions "with a fine-toothed comb."
He said the party will announce early next week if it will definitely challenge the Green petitions in court.
Lindsay Minnema is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.