|Judge Craig Dally|
I make no apology for attempting, fairly and even unfairly, to make a branch of government accountable. But without judges serving as a check and balance, our democratic form of government would have perished long ago. In some cases, ballot challenges are very necessary. A candidate who refuses to play by the rules could emerge as an elected official who thinks he is above the law. But increasingly, election challenges are used by the rich and powerful to deprive the voters of a choice.
In Northampton County,Judge Craig Dally handled four ballot challenges last week. Over the course of two days, he conducted full hearings on every one of them. On a Friday, he conducted one hearing until well after 5 pm. He decided the matters on Tuesday as promised, even though he had gone through a full day of arguments.
In one case, the candidate failed to appear. Rather than assume that he had no interest, as I would have done, he reviewed the challenge and rejected it. In two cases, the candidates represented themselves. They had equal standing with powerful interests trying to deny them ballot access.
In each of his four opinions, Judge Dally made it clear that he was guided by the principle that "[t]he Election Code must be construed liberally so as not to deprive an individual of his right to run for office, or the voters of their right to elect a candidate of their choice. Furthermore, the purpose of the Election Code is to protect, not defeat, a citizen's vote."
As a result of his decisions, Easton and Palmer Township voters will have a choice. He ruled that voter registration requirement in Easton's Home Rule Charter Voters is too restrictive. He agreed with a Pakistani immigrant that the "city rules" were wrong. So was a county rule requiring affidavits for nicknames. He refused to invalidate signatures simply because a letter was missing from someone's name. He honored the signatures that a candidate for magistrate obtained himself, while disallowing those obtained by others who failed to execute a required affidavit.
Thanks to the courts, voters in Easton, Palmer Tp and in one county magisterial district will have a choice.
Judge Dally's decisions are discussed in more detail in the four posts below.