All briefs have now been filed in the lawsuit known as “Nomination Papers of Nevin Mindlin for the Office of Mayor of Harrisburg.” The Commonwealth Court will hold an oral argument on September 12, to determine if independent candidate Nevin Mindlin will be on the November 5, 2013 ballot for Mayor of Harrisburg. The issue is whether it is constitutional to force independent candidates to list a “substitution committee” on their petitions. Mindlin says that if he died or became incapacitated, he would not want any other candidate named to replace him, because he is a true independent candidate, and if some unexpected event caused him to terminate his candidacy, he wouldn’t want anyone else named to replace him.
Mindlin also argues that if his failure to name a substitution committee is supposedly fatal to the validity of his petition, the election officials who received his petitions would have told him so. He submitted the petitions on a flow basis, on five different dates far in advance of the petition deadline.
The people who challenged Mindlin’s petition completely fail to respond to the constitutional argument. Mindlin had quoted from the U.S. Supreme Court 1974 decision Storer v Brown, which said that the independent candidate approach to politics is entirely different from the political party approach to politics, and that states are obliged to have procedures for both. But the other side simply responds that Pennsylvania election laws only recognize political parties and political bodies. The opposition misses the point that, to the extent Pennsylvania requires all candidates to be partisan candidates, the law is unconstitutional. The opposition says Mindlin is “cherry-picking” points from Storer v Brown. Actually, Mindlin is merely quoting the part of Storer v Brown that is relevant to this case.
The name of this case may seem peculiar, because the name of a typical lawsuit is “Someone versus Somone.” In Pennsylvania state courts, election lawsuits don’t follow the common tradition, in which the lead plaintiff is listed first, followed by the word “versus” (or “v” for short), and then followed by the name of the lead defendant.