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February 27, 2016

Penn student seeks to remove John Kasich from Pennsylvania Republican primary ballot

Chairman of Pennsylvania Students for Rubio network claims Ohio governor collected ineligible and invalid signatures on nomination petition

UPDATE: A spokesman from the Kasich for America campaign responded Monday to the petition to set aside John Kasich's nomination for president in the Pennsylvania Republican Primary. The story has been updated. 

A University of Pennsylvania student is trying to have Republican presidential candidate John Kasich removed from the state's primary ballot.

Nathaniel Rome, a Penn sophomore and chairman of the Pennsylvania Students for Rubio network, has petitioned Commonwealth Court to remove Kasich from the April 26 primary election ballot, alleging that the Ohio governor did not meet the statutory requirement of at least 2,000 signatures on his nominating petition.

Rome, a resident of Strafford, Chester County, contends in his court filing that as many as 802 of the 2,184 signatures on the Kasich petition are invalid or ineligible, for multiple reasons.

Specifically, Rome claims that many of the signatures of Kasich's electors do not match the signatures of their voter registration cards. Other electors, he says, are either not registered to vote, are not registered in the specified district or are not registered as Republicans. In several instances, the petition challenges illegible signatures or handwriting that appears to belong to third parties other than the stated elector.

As a result, Rome is asking the court to set aside Kasich's nominating petition and remove him from the state's April 26 primary ballot.

"We are fully confident that we will be on the Pennsylvania ballot," said Rob Nichols, campaign spokesman for Kasich for America, on Monday. 

John G. Bravacos, Rome's legal counsel, said that his client's petition includes more than 200 pages of Kasich's Pennsylvania nomination petition and explains the nature of the challenge to each disputed signature.

"We believe that based on these challenges, there is an insufficient number of signatures for Kasich to appear on the ballot," Bravacos said. "We'll see how it goes forward at the hearing on March 9."

Bravacos, who has a law practice in Wayne, added that a key piece of Rome's challenge concerns the issue of whether Kasich's petition circulators were appropriately registered, for either the correct county or the correct party, at the time they obtained their signatures.

Vetting signatures, he said, is a common procedure in national and state races in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Ralph Nader, for example, was stricken from eight state ballots during the run up to the 2004 presidential election after his campaign faced legal challenges over signatures related to registrations with the Reform Party USA and as an independent.

At present, Bravacos said, there are at least 30 or 40 challenges pending for a variety of electoral races in Pennsylvania.

Determining the exact number of invalid or ineligible signatures, if any, on Kasich's petition will come down to a careful review of any potential lag time between when circulators registered as Republicans in their respective counties, when the state officially recorded these registrations and when the circulators collected signatures.

Rome would not have filed the challenge if he were not confident that at least 185 signatures were invalid or ineligible, Bravacos said.

The Commonwealth Court is scheduled to hear the petition on March 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom 3002 at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg.

Rome, who studies political science and economics at Penn, could not immediately be reached for comment. In addition to receiving campaign management training from the Republican National Committee, he is an elected representative on Penn's Undergraduate Assembly and serves as both director of Academic Affairs and political director of the Penn-Israel Public Affairs Committee.