#HD182: The Josephs Petition Challenge – What You Need to Know

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Yesterday, Keystone Politics broke the news of a challenge to the nomination petition of former Representative Babette Josephs, in the 182nd legislative district. Josephs served as the representative of this Center City district from 1984 until she was unseated in 2012 by the current representative, Brian Sims.

The focus of the challenge in the media, among many publications (including our own) has been the alleged forgery of noted political blogger Duncan Black (Atrios, of Eschaton), but there’s much more to it than that hilarious novelty.

Here’s what you need to know:

Babette Josephs’s state house campaign submitted a total of 599 petition signatures for consideration to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. Of these 599, the Sims legal team is challenging 480 signatures, leaving only 119 valid, if their challenges are upheld. (In order for a state representative candidate’s name to appear on the ballot in the May 2014 primary, 300 valid signatures are required.)

Sims’ legal team has made a challenge to the description on her financial disclosure form, called the Statement of Financial Interest (SFI). According to evidence presented by them, Josephs’s entry for her current profession/occupation is incorrect. She listed herself as an “attorney-advocate”, but her status with the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board, according to Sims’ lawyer, Adam Bonin, is inactive, and therefore, her SFI form is inaccurate and must be thrown out.

Lawyers with inactive status are not permitted to publicly represent themselves as legal professionals, according to Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board standards. Josephs voluntarily went into inactive status in 2012. A candidate without a proper financial disclosure form is not permitted on the ballot for the primary election, according to Pennsylvania election laws and statutes.

Another part of the overall complaint by Sims’ lawyer to the Commonwealth Court lies with Josephs’s answer to another question on her SFI form. She allegedly began to write in the name of a business in which she holds a financial stake, something that must be disclosed on the form for the public record.

Josephs crossed out whatever she had begun to write, and later research by Bonin revealed that she remains a co-owner of a business called Diamond Peak Investments, LLC, located in Oregon. (Josephs was in Oregon when it leaked to the press that she’d be running against her political foe representing the 182nd District.) Diamond Peak Investments, LLC, dissolved on March 14th, according to the complaint, because Josephs and her business partners failed to file the proper paperwork with the federal government to sustain its legal status.

Of the challenges to actual signatures, there are complaints falling into a number of categories, some pretty standard to any candidate’s run for political office. Some signers are not registered to vote, disqualifying their right to sign the petition. Some are not registered to vote at the address from which they sign, meaning that they probably do live at that address but have yet to update their registration.

If any voter information is missing from the signature, or if there are ditto marks, the signature is automatically struck, according to legal standards of practice. Bonin also cites some pages that were circulated by someone not registered to vote at the address they wrote, or else not notarized properly; those signature challenges alone total 190 signatures. That isn’t to say that some signatures don’t have multiple legal flaws.

Bonin goes on to challenge signatures that appear to be in the hand of someone other than who signed it, that have a signature written in print rather than cursive, that are completely illegible, and 23 signatures that make use of nicknames or initials.

Pursuant to traditional nomination challenges, Sims’ lawyer has brought in three voters from within the 182nd district to directly ask the court to set aside her petition. Duncan Black, also known to his many fans as Atrios, the creator of the blog Eschaton, is one of those three citizen challengers. His affidavit was submitted yesterday afternoon, along with similar documentation by Shirley C. Smith and Charles P. Goodwin, as objectors of her candidacy.

Babette Josephs’s campaign did not choose to challenge any signatures submitted by Representative Brian Sims – she would have had to do so by 5:00 PM yesterday. It is fair and important to note that this does not necessarily indicate that her team did not find irregularities – it just means that they did not find enough to make a legal challenge worth the time and expense – enough to throw Representative Sims off of the ballot.

A copy of the complaint against Josephs was hand delivered to her, and according to sources within the Sims camp, Josephs and her team are taking the time necessary to review the basis of each individual complaint, before moving forward. A court date has not yet been set, but we will inform our readers once it has been scheduled.

At this time, Babette Josephs has remained completely silent on the issue of the allegations, although her social media silence was halted this morning, as she tweeted about a city council initiative she supports involving the freeze of “ICE holds”, the prolonged arrest of undocumented immigrants by the federal government.

For continued updates on this story, follow @ckennedy124 and @keystonepol on Twitter.

To check out the documents, click HERE and HERE.

This entry was posted in State House.

4 Responses to #HD182: The Josephs Petition Challenge – What You Need to Know

  1. steventodd says:

    If someone forged my name, it would not be an hilarious novelty. It would be forgery. If on a notarized election form, almost certainly a felony. I would concentrate on the criminal aspects of that forward. The rest is the legal hairsplitting that turns many off from the whole process.

    • steventodd says:

      Don’t get me wrong: the story is great reporting. But we have an affidavit that forgery occurred. Instead of nitpicking whether ditto marks mean what we all know ditto marks to mean or the definition of ‘legible’, subpoena each and every signer. If they won’t verify they signed, toss that one. Probable cause to do so is way more than sufficient. Then, don’t pursue removal from the ballot, but whatever the punishment for forging a federally-regulated, notarized document is. If you want to stop fraud, make fraud not worth it, and make it so that its punishment isn’t limited to those who can afford a private lawyer.

      The state must take over prosecuting the documented forgery. The campaign can continue the civil suit about ballot eligibility. That is also a good next story: whether or not the same prohibitions against forgery that apply to you and me also apply to The Political Class…you know, tough on crime and all. This case goes far beyond proper vs improper petitioning (such as ditto marks vs none).

      Steve Todd
      Dauphin County Democratic Committee, Derry Twp, Precinct 12

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