Election Lawyers Lock Horns
In Pike DA Ballot Showdown
MILFORD — A lawyer representing five Democratic petitioners who are seeking to knock incumbent District Attorney Ray Tonkin off their ballot and Tonkin’s election lawyer sparred at the Pike County Board of Elections’ special meeting held on Monday. The board held a special meeting to hear an argument presented by petitioners’ lawyer Bill Jones of Scranton that the board should immediately file a notification letter to the Pike County Democratic Committee acknowledging that Tonkin is off the ballot based on a 2014 federal Supreme Court decision about the inviolability of state and local election-law calendars.
Jones declared, “Tonkin did not follow the law. He can’t change the election code.” He said that the code refers to Pennsylvania’s Election code on Election-year calendars, and Pike County’s published Election-year calendar that is published in compliance to state code. Jones said, “The federal decision is clear that local election boards cannot change timetables of such published calendar dates once a filing deadline is missed.”
Jones contended that Tonkin missed a Pennsylvania and Pike filing deadline to pay a $100 fee to the board, due by write-in candidates, at latest by the 85th day before General Election day, which was Aug. 10. Jones noted that Tonkin also missed filing related affidavits that typically must be submitted with the fee. Tonkin’s lawyer, Lawrence M. Otter of Silverdale, Pa., objected to Jones’ line of reasoning. He noted that the Democratic petitioners were obligated to make two filings and that they missed a filing deadline.
One filing is a Petition Objection appeal to the Pike County Court of Common Pleas, and the other is a petition to the election board to take action directly instead of via the Court of Common Pleas. The board convened the special meeting in response to petitioners’ call for board action. Otter said that the petitioners filed the court petition in a timely way, but missed the board filing deadline for petitions of Aug. 17 by one day.
Otter said, “I have yet to see a date-stamped copy of the court petition that was received by the Board of Elections. That is an absolutely necessary process. Therefore, based on Pennsylvania Election law, missing either deadline derails the entire petition process... for complete story, get this week's issue.