|Taiba Sultana and her husband|
at NorCo elections office
Sultana's nomination petition was filed by prominent Bethlehem Attorney Vic Scomillio on behalf of Vulcano's son-in-law, Ryan Hall. He alleged that since Sultana only registered to vote in February, she fails to meet the one-year residency requirement set forth in Easton's Home Rule Charter. It states that "[o]nly those who are and have been for at least one (1) year registered voters of the City shall be eligible to hold the office of Council Member or Mayor." Since Sultana only registered to vote on February 23 of this year, she's ineligible, argued Scomillio. Case closed.
A nervous Taiba Sultana, who still has difficulty with the English language, represented herself. She did ask Judge Dally if her husband could sit with her, and he agreed. Her basic argument was that the "state constitution is bigger than city rules."
I had a better argument than that. After all, I have a law degree, damn it. My theory was that the court lacks jurisdiction. Election challenges are for violations of the Election Code or Ethics Act, not some municipal home rule charter, A strict reading of Easton's Charter provides only that she is unable to hold the office of City Council until she establishes one year of residency. Nothing prevents her from running. Rush Holt was elected to the US Senate at age 29, and had to wait six months before he was sworn in. If the people of West Virginia could wait six months for Rush Holt to be qualified, the people of Easton could wait seven weeks for Taiba .
Judge Dally went with Taiba's argument.
In an interesting, six-page Opinion, Judge Dally concluded that the residency requirement imposed by Easton's Home Rule Charter is invalid because it is more restrictive than the Third Class City Code that it replaced and is not rationally related to any legitimate governmental interest.
The The distinction is that the Easton Home Rule Charter requires that a candidate be a registered voter for one year. The Third Class City Code requires that the candidate be a resident for one year prior to taking office. Thus the city home rule charter is more restrictive than state law. Even worse, it is not rationally related to any legitimate governmental interest. As a result, the voter registration requirement contained in the City's home rule charter fails. Or as Sultana put it, the "state constitution is bigger than city rules."
Dally observes that courts have repeatedly found that residency requirements are "rationally related to a governmental interest in ensuring that candidates for office are familiar with the issues and characteristics of the district for which they are seeking office, and interested in the concerns of the locality." But he found no case law on voter registration requirements,which he believes "are not rationally related to any governmental interest, and could have a chilling effect on the rights of candidates and electors."
That very nearly happened. When I first reported on Sultana's candidacy I received these anonymous comments:
"we need more candidates telling the truth, not just what they think we want to hear. someone with more then 1 year experience on the easton student council. we want someone with experience that has been there before."Pretty clearly, Sultana was pressured to drop out. Vulcano's biggest accomplishment in her 1,000 years on Easton City Council is that she once stayed awake for most of a meeting. She used her City Council seat mostly to sell 40,000 shitty pens and 80,000 palm cards to candidates who pay her to shut her up. I think Easton is sick of people like Vulcano. And the slur at Sultana's religious faith reveals that Republicans have no lock on religious intolerance.
"sorry to burst your bubble bernie, in typical immigrant fashion, not playing by the rules, Sandra Vulcano's opponent will be withdrawing from the race and returning to her terror cell."
(Blogger's Note: Originally published 3/21/17 at 5:21 pm).