↓ Archives ↓

Posts Tagged → Dauphin

Patriot News Editorial on Mindlin’s Toss from Ballot

“Infrequently” best describes how often an editorial by the local newspaper, The Patriot News, would appeal to me on logic, principle, or understanding of the facts. However, independent candidate Nevin Mindlin’s political assassination by both Democrats and Republicans is so notoriously egregious that the Patriot News stated the case pretty well, so here it is:

Commonwealth Court sides with mystery challengers to Mindlin’s candidacy: Editorial
Print
Patriot-News Editorial Board By Patriot-News Editorial Board
on October 07, 2013 at 10:59 AM, updated October 07, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Nevin Mindlin, the one-time independent candidate for Harrisburg mayor, is a candidate no more. He has been knocked off the November ballot by court rulings based on the mindlessly literal application of a nonsensical state law. With little time for an appeal to the state Supreme Court, he has decided against waging a write-in campaign.

Nevin Mindlin went to Commonwealth Court in September, seeking to get back on November’s mayoral ballot. Friday, the court turned him down.

Though Mindlin was an independent candidate, not affiliated with any party or organization, state law requires him to name a committee that would replace him should he leave the race. That requirement makes sense for a political party, but it makes no sense for an independent candidate. By definition, an independent candidate is independent of organizational structures that would be entitled to claim an independent’s slot on the ballot.

Knowing all that, Mindlin did not name that committee. The Dauphin County elections office accepted his petition, without any warning that his petition had any fatal defect.

None of that mattered to the lower court that knocked him off the ballot earlier this summer. And it didn’t matter to Commonwealth Court, which last Friday upheld the dubious ruling.

Commonwealth Court used a legal technicality to dodge the heart of Mindlin’s case. He said that the state law in question violates a right enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — freedom of association. In this case, the law forces Mindlin to associate with a “committee” empowered to choose some undetermined future candidate who could replace him, when the whole point of his candidacy is that he is independent of backroom-type arrangements like that.

Mindlin’s case is an example of the sleazy, insider political game-playing that fuels public disillusionment with elected officials and government.

The court’s hostility to Mindlin’s arguments also contradicts a well-established principle set by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in election cases. Courts in the commonwealth, when applying the election code, are supposed to construe the requirements liberally, “so as not to deprive an individual of his right to run for office, or voters of their right to elect a candidate of their choice.”

Again, the Commonwealth Court used a technicality to completely ignore those claims under the state Constitution.

Mindlin’s campaign is the latest casualty of ballot bounty hunters, ordinary citizens who mysteriously come forward, armed with expensive lawyers, to press a legal challenge to a candidate’s filing papers.

Hired guns parse signatures for the slimmest possible rationale to disqualify them: using a first initial instead of full name, women whose maiden name and married name are different, imperfect handwriting, stray marks in the signature block.

Even if the candidate survives the challenge, (as third-party Allegheny County council candidate Jim Barr did earlier this summer), he or she has to expend precious time and money fighting in court.

These often-shadowy court challenges to candidates’ paperwork have a corrosive effect on public confidence in the integrity of the election system.

In a comment on PennLive, one reader said Mindlin “must have stepped on the wrong toes.” Another announced, “I won’t be voting for anybody; the best candidate just got bounced.”

Many have wondered who paid the legal bills for challenging Mindlin. But without any public disclosure requirements, the mystery money can remain secret.

All in all, Mindlin’s case is an example of the sleazy, insider political game-playing that fuels public disillusionment with elected officials and government.

Pennsylvania’s legislature could rewrite election law to strike the nonsensical provision that kept Mindlin off the ballot. The legislature could require those filing challenges against candidates to identify how they are paying for all that expensive legal work. The Legislature could lower the unreasonably high barriers now imposed on third parties seeking to get on the state’s ballot.

But as with so many dysfunctional aspects of Pennsylvania’s laws affecting politicians, those who get to make the rules are content with the status quo. After all, they got there by playing by the rules as they are – why would legislators want to change them?

From their selfish perspective, it makes political sense. But from the perspective of the citizen whom elected officials are supposed to serve, allowing ballot bounty hunters so much room to squelch candidates is nonsense.
(from http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/10/mindlin_off_ballot_commonwealth_court_bad_ruling.html#comments)

When minutes count, justice is only days away

Harrisburg City candidate for mayor, Nevin Mindlin, has waited since yesterday morning for a judicial holding. He’s waiting to find out if the integrity of Pennsylvania’s electoral law is best represented by redundant, arcane, unnecessary, petty requirements, or if those artificial things matter more than letting otherwise qualified candidates run for office.

Every hour that Mindlin waits, his campaign weakens a little. Every hour he waits is filled with doubt, supporters increasingly worn down by anxiety. It’s all a calculated wait, if you ask me. Sadly, Dauphin County is occasionally home to a highly politicized judiciary.

Sitting in the court room yesterday, I heard nothing to convince me that our citizens are served by a slavish adherence to confusing election laws. Over the past several years other judges around Pennsylvania have struck down or bypassed certain election law requirements, like petition circulators living in the same political district as the candidate. Their holdings excoriate the law, questioning how and why these requirements were invented.

Hopefully, Judge Bernie Coates is above the political fray. Hopefully, he looks to other judges who have recently held that representative democracy is best served by transparency and simple processes. Hopefully, the judge recognizes that Mindlin acted in good faith, in keeping with advice from county election staff, and reasonably. And hopefully the judge will himself act reasonably, and toss out this silly waste of time, and let Mindlin run for office.

Bill Tully for Judge sporting clay shoot

Bill Tully is a candidate running for Dauphin County Judge. He is the older and much, much more experienced of two candidates vying for the same seat. Bill is holding a sporting clays shoot at Hummelstown Field & Stream Association on May 4th, starting with the 8:30 breakfast.
It is $75 per participant and is open to kids 12 and up.
Questions should be directed to www.billtullyjudge.com

Bruce Warshawsky for Susquehanna Twp school board

Bruce Warshawsky is a local attorney of note, having run for office and participated in many campaigns.

Bruce is a taxpayer, father of three children, married to Terri, and a long-time Susquehanna Township resident. He is a good guy and a hard worker.

Susquehanna Township is going through some oddball politics right now, with strong racial tones that I personally find frightening and sad. America is better than what we are seeing there at this time.

Bruce has always been above race issues, advocating for an inclusive set of principles instead, the most important of which is Academic Excellence above all else.

Academic excellence should be the goal of all parents and all taxpayers who foot the bill for government schools.

The best way to reach Bruce is 717 547-4089, or btwarshawsky@comcast.net. Recall that even small donations of ten or fifteen bucks go a long way. Bruce also needs volunteers to help distribute campaign literature to voters.

Take a kid fishing

Trout season is upon us, and if you want future generations to appreciate natural resources, then teach them early on how natural resources function. For example, take a kid fishing and teach him or her about how trout and the bugs they eat need clean water.
Conservation isn’t always serious stuff. It can be fun!
The local kids-only trout fishing hot spot is on Clark’s Creek, run by DCAC: http://dauphincountyanglers.com/

Forget Recriminations, Move America & The Republican Party Forward

Forget Recriminations, Move America & The Republican Party Forward

By Josh First

November 14, 2012

More than enough recriminations are flying around about who and what caused Mitt Romney to lose last Tuesday’s presidential election: Foolish staffers, inaccurate polling, Obama redistributing private property of America’s makers to the takers and thus buying their votes, a prolonged, punishing primary, poor ground game by complacent Republicans, uninspiring/insipid/kind/tepid/limp/weak/tame/nice/flaccid moderate Republican candidates, etc. Rather than re-hashing and reassigning the blame, let’s move America and our core, traditional values forward, analyzing things we can change to guide us.

Out of all of the reasons, causes, and excuses for last week’s unimaginable election failure, two solvable challenges do stand out: 1) Biased media reporting, and 2) the poor relationship between many Republican voters and the Republican Party establishment.

‘Media’ includes both the various faux news political advocacy outlets like ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, NYT, MSNBC, Washington Post, etc. and otherwise known as the mainstream media, as well as the entertainment shows like Letterman, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, et. al.

Republican Party ‘establishment’ includes the careerist elected officials, bureaucrats, pollsters, financers, lobbyists, apparatchiks, consultants, and other functionaries and rock star groupies whose often low-risk, insulated careers and financial interests comprise the don’t-rock-the-boat wing. Registered Republican voters and tea party activists are not necessarily included in this group.

Last Tuesday’s voting data show that Romney received fewer votes than McCain received in 2008, even as Obama also received far fewer votes than his all-positive campaign got in 2008. So, despite Obama’s catastrophic economy, foreign policy failures, gaffes, corruption, and bizarre running mate, Republican enthusiasm for Romney was actually lower than Republican enthusiasm of four years ago. Despite all that was on the line, Republicans were unwilling to go to the polls. Why?

As noted, the anti-Republican mainstream media artificially propped up a failed, corrupt Obama administration, and the Republican Party establishment again demonstrated its disdain for Republican voters and activists. These two issues are totally fixable. If Republican leaders want to fix them.

That the American mainstream media are political advocates first and foremost, and won’t report facts unless they hurt Republicans and conservatives, is well known and easily proven. Well, folks, stop whining about it! Fix it, change it, shape that battlefield! For all the money that goes into promoting Republican and conservative causes, why can’t we come up with more friendly news outlets, comedians (like Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy), and TV shows set up for them? Breitbart, The Blaze, Drudge Report, Washington Free Beacon, Frontpage Magazine, Project Veritas and other new media deserve our support and are making headway, but wouldn’t it help if wealthy Republicans purchased some of the nation’s failing newspapers and rejuvenated them to get back to reporting factual news, like the Benghazi cover-up? Wouldn’t it be enjoyable to see some of Breitbart’s investigative reporting show up in print in hometown newspapers, or on a news channel? Can no one create a conservative stand-up comedy club, or a conservative comedy TV show, to give a platform to Jon Stewart’s alter ego? Yes, we can. Richard Scaife can’t do it all by himself.

The second issue is Republican Party vs. Republican voters, sometimes called the grass roots. As in, profit vs. principle, or, “There seems to be a struggle within the Republican Party between the traditional leadership and the conservative grass roots individuals and groups that are probably more mobilized now than they were a few years ago,” said Lehigh University professor Frank Davis, back in February. “The Republican Party has used these grass roots individuals to further the party establishment’s interests, and I think these people may want to choose their own representatives, rather than rely on the leadership,” Davis observed.

The onus for reconciling the two groups is fully on the Republican Party leaders, staffers, and functionaries; the “professionals.” Many Republican Party leaders have engaged in high-handed, controlling behavior that has alienated a growing number of registered Republicans, even the most dedicated. Republican voters and volunteers have been treated as wind-up toy soldiers, turned in a direction and told to march. Party intervention in primary races is one of the worst abuses. No matter how much the establishment may want Yes men to support the establishment’s intertwined political and business interests, the final costs are just too high. Stay out and give the people a voice, and you’ll be rewarded with more inspired voters, more volunteers on the ground, more elections won.

Some examples: First, running a gazillionaire for president during the worst economy in 70 years, where his wealth contrasted with citizens’ daily needs…does that make sense? It sure did to the Party establishment, which was long ago greasing the skids for Romney staffers into county Party offices well before the last primary closed. Sure, I like Romney, admire his business acumen, donated to his campaign, went door to door for him, blogged for him, and voted for him. But someone more blue collar, more authentic is needed to connect to and persuade regular Americans.

Second example: Grass roots candidates lost several recent US Senate races, which establishment candidates would have had no greater chance of winning, but the establishment demanded they step aside. Here in Pennsylvania, candidates hand-picked by Republican Party leaders were also disastrous failures, from the primary to last week’s general election. These candidates made perfect sense to insiders. But when trotted out into the public venue, these perfect candidates went down in flames.

The professional class of Republicans say they know what they are doing and everyone just needs to move out of their way and let them do their job. Maybe it’s true that the new grass roots activists lack professional judgment, but the professional class suffers from an inspiration gap, pushing plain vanilla, pre-fabricated, cookie cutter candidates who are “supposed” to win, but who fail after spectacularly expensive investments. The Party does actually need Republican voters to get their candidates across the goal line, so will they listen to the voters?

Which leads to the second solvable challenge — successful candidates, their Party backers, and establishment leaders must unify the Republican Party. That means putting aside egos, picking up the phone, calling their opponents, and asking to meet with them, for their support and help. Having myself run in two Republican primaries in the past three years, let’s look at how that works. In one race, the insider victor, state senator Dave Argall, graciously contacted me, asked me for help in his general election, gave me opportunities to speak in public on his behalf, and turned my hard work into a benefit, rallying the Party. Dave has had a lot of races in the past few years, and he has won all but one of them. Establishment or not, the guy knows how to treat people right, he benefits from it, and so does the Party.

Contrast Argall’s generosity of spirit with the treatment I got over the past eight months from state and local Republican officials, who did everything possible to exclude and punish me for exercising a simple American right. Despite running one hell of a strong, last-second, pick-up campaign for state senate back in January (thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court), most of the establishment pros treated me like some sort of disloyal pest, with a couple guys behaving outright disrespectfully to my face. One primary voter, a supporter of my opponent, gave our volunteer the middle finger from his front door; when we looked him up on the Internet, it turned out he is a leader in our opponent’s church. You know what? My supporters noticed this stuff. The establishment candidate from my race lost in the general election, attracting far fewer Republican volunteers and votes than he should have otherwise gotten in Republican bastions. From these circumstances the Tea Party recruits its newest members, and Republican voters stay home.

If I sound cranky, let me just get an honest answer to this one question: Is there sufficient humility among our Party leaders to learn from these mistakes, to look inside, and make the necessary tough changes?

In sum, if Republicans want to win elections, they need to be the Party of Opportunity. Change the media battlefield, and also act like a good man to your Party members, including the more conservative, independent-minded ones. We are all in this together, let’s start acting like it.

Stay in the conversation at www.joshfirst.com and on our political Facebook page

Did Voter Fraud Occur in Dauphin County? How Would You Know?

Did Voter Fraud Occur in Dauphin County? How Would You Know?

By Josh First

November 1, 2012

PoliticsPA recently mentioned the question raised about voter fraud in Dauphin County during the April 2012 primary election, and as the subject of that question, it is necessary to describe its genesis.

On April 24th, voters cast their ballots in the primary election, in which I ran for state senate, as a Republican, against John McNally and Bill Seeds. The final results were surprising in several ways, encouraging our team to look closely at the numbers. What we found seemed too symmetrical to be coincidental. We were then discouraged to learn that Dauphin County’s voting machines (indeed, all electronic and computerized voting machines) are reportedly easy to tamper with, and that Dauphin County’s machines are stored in a non-secure location where access is neither controlled nor monitored.

When I then asked Dauphin County Bureau of Elections to explain the physical controls surrounding the voting machines, my request was forwarded to Dauphin County’s elected political leaders, the same people who had opposed me in the primary. Their May 31st, 2012, official response through the county solicitor was to reject everything I asked for: “Dear Mr. First, This office has reviewed your letter to the Bureau of Elections, Dauphin County, and we must advise that your request is denied…your request cannot be honored…the information and access requested is not proper.”

Despite voting machines forming the foundation of America, one would think that elected officials would be the first people to instill confidence in the voting process, not undermine it. Here in Dauphin County, you’d be wrong.

What piqued our curiosity back on April 24th were the following factors:

1) Political unknown John McNally received many more votes than voters we surveyed indicated was likely.

2) McNally’s electoral success was contrary to surrounding voter trends, where Republican Party-endorsed candidates Steve Welch and Jenna Lewis were trumped by underdogs.

3) Many other Republican primary candidates have also grossly out-spent their competitors, only to lose, so huge infusions of Party money were no guarantor of McNally’s success.

4) Political unknown John McNally received more votes than Bill Seeds in Lower Paxton Township, where Seeds has been a popular supervisor for 20 years and had every reason and expectation to win big. Similarly, in locations where I had done very well in the 2010 congressional primary race, McNally garnered amazingly high results.

5) McNally appeared to receive one vote for every other vote cast for Seeds and First, in every single precinct but one, a mathematical improbability if not an impossibility. Think hard about this.

6) Simple research indicated that mechanical and electronic voting machines are easily subject to fraud through pre-programming; paper ballots are probably more reliable. All that is needed is five minutes and a device from Radio Shack, and a voting machine will give you whatever results you tell it to give, and unless someone crawls inside the chip’s code, no one will ever know.

7) Given the politics and criminal investigation surrounding the Harrisburg incinerator debt, sufficient motive exists to commit another crime. Whoever wins this state senate seat will have enormous influence on the criminal investigation in Harrisburg.

Now, I am not accusing anyone of voter fraud. We don’t have the evidence. But, enough factors and conditions add up to make me wonder if something happened; it certainly could happen. The subsequent lack of transparency and resistance by county officials didn’t help restore my confidence. After being turned down by the county solicitor, I submitted a Right-To-Know request, which was honored at the end of the 30-day period. To summarize the response, Dauphin County’s voting machines, and the little computer chips that run them, are not treated like the nuclear launch controls they should be treated like. Instead of elected officials from each party having only half of the access, all of the access to the machines and their chips is held by one or two people from one political party. If that’s not a recipe for problems, then what is?

So, if voter fraud occurred in Dauphin County, how would we know? More to the point, will the county adopt strict measures to guarantee that our sacred voting machines cannot be tampered with?

Trust in official institutions is the defining characteristic of American democracy. It’s the centerpiece of the rule of law, which we simply take for granted. Your confidence in public institutions is the cornerstone of our democracy and civilization. When shared institutions are corrupted, or harnessed to serve narrow interests rather than the broad, public interest, then democracy fails. Don’t let that happen.

Stay in the conversation at www.joshfirst.com and on our political Facebook page