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My Day in Court…is Your Day in Court

This morning I joined mayoral candidate Nevin Mindlin and a contingent of other supporters and watchers in Dauphin County court. Judge Bernie Coates presided.

At issue was the contention that Mindlin had failed to name a three-person committee to replace him, in case he dies or is incapacitated before the election, and thus is now disqualified from running for office in the first place. Attorney Ron Katzman presented the charge on behalf of a nameless voter who must be very proud indeed to serve as a political stooge seeking to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.

Katzman made the argument that all rules that possibly could be followed must be followed, even if they are counter-intuitive and determined to not apply by the official elections staff. It sounded to me like Katzman was arguing that potential candidates for office really need to pay an attorney to carefully scrutinize the rules, so the already-onerous requirements are met. Mindlin said as much from the witness stand.

Attorney Herschel Lock represented Mindlin and made the argument that the law is vague, Mindlin followed all the clear requirements, he followed the advice of election officials, the rules and past legal holdings allow for his candidate papers to be amended, if needed, and Lock concluded by asking what sort of a voting system do Americans want: One that needs lawyers, or one that simply needs a few papers filled out?

My takeaway from the two-hour proceeding is that Pennsylvania’s election rules and forms are ridiculously onerous, and that the majority of these rules and forms serve no purpose other than to make it easier to disqualify someone for not dotting an i or crossing a t. As though dotting an i or crossing a t is what running for office is about…

Is it in the public’s interests to make it difficult to run for office? My answer, and I suspect yours, is that No, it should not be difficult to run for office. If you are crazy enough to put your name out in the public domain, and to subject yourself, your family, and your business to that kind of destructive scrutiny, then it should be easy. After all, finding candidates for office is at the core of our representative democracy. Procedurally, it should be easy to run, not hard.

Mindlin had his day in court, and I hope that he prevails, because his day is my day and it is your day, too. Freedom for Mindlin means freedom for all citizens.

It makes sense that he will win. But who ever said that politics makes sense? After all, Mindlin’s candidacy is being challenged on the flimsiest of grounds because his opponent, Eric Papenfuse, cannot stand up to him on substantive issues of ideas, trust, and job qualifications. Because of the apparent RICO violations involved with all of the Harrisburg City bond shenanigans, a strong mayor like Mindlin is a potential threat to the bipartisan parasite that feasted away on the taxpayers here. If Mindlin becomes mayor, people might actually go to jail. And because people might go to jail, and thereby expose even more alleged law breakers, who knows what kind of backroom political pressures are being exerted at the judicial level.

It is my hope that Judge Coates does what a good judge is supposed to do and what other Pennsylvania judges have been doing in recent years: Let the man run for office.

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