On October 4, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued an eight-page opinion, keeping Nevin Mindlin off the November 5, 2013 ballot as an independent candidate for Mayor of Harrisburg. The case is In Re: Nomination Papers of Mindlin, 1392 C.D. 2013.
Mindlin had enough valid signatures, but he was still kept off the ballot because his petitions did not fill out the blanks that are provided for candidates to appoint a substitution committee. Pennsylvania election law technically does not recognize that anyone is ever an independent candidate. The law assumes that all candidates are either nominees of political parties or nominees of political bodies. The law also assumes that it is desirable for party nominees to have a substitution committee, which is a committee of people who will choose a new nominee in case the original nominee (the candidate or candidates named on the petition) die, or withdraw, or become incapacitated.
Mindlin didn’t list a substitution committee because he is a true independent candidate. His position was that if something unexpected happened to cause his candidacy to be curtailed before the election, he wouldn’t want any replacement named. He argued that Pennsylvania law violates the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Storer v Brown (a 1974 decision) that says states must have ballot access procedures for both independent candidates and newly-qualifying parties. But the Commonwealth Court said it would not discuss this argument, because Mindlin did not raise this argument in the trial court. So, the issue remains unresolved. Today’s opinion will not be published.
The Commonwealth Court took a very long time to issue this decision, considering the timing of the election. The case was argued on September 12 and the election is on November 5. Absentee ballots were printed up with Mindlin’s name on the ballot. UPDATE: here is a newspaper story about the decision.