Nomination Petition Challenges: Top 20 Signature Deficiencies To Spot

Candidate signatures are finally in, and you’ve probably thought about pulling your opponent’s petitions to see if he or she might be vulnerable to a legal challenge.  The decision whether to request those petitions is often based on the opponent’s signature margin; that is, the percentage cushion between the required signatures and number of signatures actually filed.  This is a logical proxy for vulnerability.  But if a candidate’s petition suffers from a particular fatal error, and that error is repeated throughout the petitions, the signature cushion can be misleading.  The only way to confirm is to actually pull the petitions.

There are four basic categories of challenges to consider: challenges to the voters’ signatures (such as lack of registration), challenges to the petition form (such as misidentifying the office), challenges to the circulator (such as a felony conviction without civil rights restoration), and challenges to the candidate’s qualifications (such as lack of residency in the district).

This post examines the first category.  Here are the top 20 potential signature deficiencies to look for:

  1. Signer is not registered to vote in the county.
  2. Signer registered to vote after the date of signing the petition.
  3. Signer is registered to vote but the registration address is outside the district. (If the signer is registered to vote in the county but the petition address is outside the county, more investigation is required to determine whether the signer is qualified).
  4. Signer is registered to vote with an ineligible political party. (For Republican petitions, Democrats and Libertarians are ineligible to sign. For Democrat petitions, Republicans and Libertarians are ineligible to sign).
  5. Signer is registered but not eligible to vote on the date of signing (for example, the signer was under 18 years old or a “federal-only” voter who signed a non-federal petition).
  6. Signer’s information is illegible such that the signer cannot be reasonably identified as a registered voter.
  7. Signer did not include a signature.
  8. Signer’s petition signature does not match the voter registration signature. (Since fraud may explain a mismatched signature, investigate whether the signature mismatch is due to someone other than the purported signer actually signing the petition).
  9. Signer did not include a printed name. (Use of a partial name, or use of a different name than registered, requires additional research to confirm whether the signer is the same person).
  10. Signer used an invalid signature or printed name (for example, use of ditto marks to incorporate the signature or printed name immediately above).
  11. Signer included no address, or an incomplete address such that the signer cannot be reasonably identified.
  12. Signer used a nonresidential address (for example, a commercial address or nonexistent address). (Use of a P.O. Box requires additional research to confirm whether the signer has an actual residential address or has moved addresses since last registering to vote).
  13. Signer included no date.
  14. Signer used an invalid date (for example, an impossible date or an incomplete date).
  15. Signer signed the same candidate’s petition more than once (the earliest duplicate signature is valid).
  16. Signer signed more candidate petitions than the number to elect for that office (the earliest duplicate signatures are valid).
  17. More than 10 signatures were included on the petition sheet.
  18. The quantity of signatures could not have been collected by the same circulator in one day.
  19. The signatures could not have been collected by the same circulator in one day in such disparate geographic regions.
  20. Signatures were collected after August 27, 2019 but before the date of the candidate’s statement of interest (except precinct committeeman candidates).

Future posts will discuss the other deficiency categories.  In the meantime, make your public records requests at https://azsos.gov/public-records-request.

This article should not be considered legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice or guidance, please contact an experienced attorney.

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