Altmire may hear by Monday whether he remains on ballot

March 2, 2012 4:49 pm

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A Commonwealth Court judge may rule Monday whether U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, will stay on the primary ballot against fellow Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini heard hours of testimony today in the Critz campaign's challenge of Altmire's petition signatures, after which the Altmire camp was close to falling below the 1,000 signatures needed to make the April 24 ballot.

The balance of the case stands with whether a 23-year-old Altmire campaign worker who collected about 200 of the signatures lives, as required, within the 12th District boundaries.

Altmire campaign worker Abby Silverman is registered to vote at her father's house in O'Hara, and her driver's license, credit card bills and other documents use the 12th District township as her address.

In testimony, she said she lives about five days per week at an apartment in Shadyside, in the 14th District, and pays for a lease there.

Critz campaign attorney Scott Caulfield went so far as to introduce Twitter posts Ms. Silverman made about Shadyside into evidence, and noted she paid cable television bills there and had moved new furniture into the apartment.

"Her true residence or domicile as called for by the [election] statute itself is in fact in Shadyside," he argued.

Ms. Silverman graduated from college in 2010 and lived full-time at home before signing an apartment lease in the city in early 2011.

Altmire attorney David Montgomery said nearly every legal document in the young woman's life tied her to the family home in O'Hara and she was thereby qualified to circulate petitions in the district.

She has "one foot firmly planted in O'Hara Township from the beginning of 2010 all the way to the present," he told the judge.

State legislators combined Mr. Altmire's current 4th District seat with Mr. Critz's 12th District seat during congressional redistricting last year. It covers parts of Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset and Westmoreland counties.

The Altmire campaign gathered 1,651 nominating signatures for the congressional race, and before today's hearing agreed that more than 300 of them should be disallowed.

The Critz campaign whittled more signatures away through the day, leaving the Altmire forces with about 1,150 legitimate ones. Should Judge Pellegrini rule Ms. Silverman was not a district resident, that would leave the McCandless Democrat without about 950 signatures, or 50 short of the number necessary to make the primary ballot.

The judge said he would "hopefully" rule by Monday.

Timothy McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.
First Published 2012-03-02 15:16:12

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