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More problems alleged for Pennsylvania auditor general candidate Mark Pinsley’s nominating petitions

Additional questions are being raised about the validity of nominating petitions that were circulated earlier this month on behalf of one of two men campaigning for the Democratic Party’s nod for state auditor general.

A woman whose name appears as the circulator of petitions for Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley in Delaware County is reportedly a registered Independent, which if true would constitute a violation of state Election Code regulations.

“That’s exactly the rule,” said Lani Frank, the Willistown resident and Democratic Party activist who first identified multiple alleged forged signatures on Pinsley’s petitions from Chester County. “You have to be of the same party as the candidate.”

She said she identified the woman, 20-year-old Clare Elizabeth Halvorsen, as a non-Democratic voter using a statewide voter database. Her name appears on the verification page on several petitions that were filed from Delaware County.

Frank said she had not contacted any authorities about the apparent violation, assuming that others would do so.

In response to queries about the matter from the MediaNews Group, Pinsley said that he did not know Halvorsen, but that it was not uncommon for circulators to change their party registration from time to time.

“Circulators changing party affiliations to facilitate petition collection are not uncommon, and it would be premature to attribute (malicious) intent without a thorough examination by the appropriate regulatory bodies,” he said in an email. “I know we had several circulators’ change parties. I do not know the status of Clare Halvorsin (sic), however, I do not trust that the person informing you is acting in good faith and therefore, I will await formal complaints.”

Pinsley, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the statewide post in the April 23 primary, said on Wednesday that he did not know how the apparently false signatures had ended up on his nominating petitions from Chester County, but indicated that the woman who had circulated the suspect documents had been recruited by one of his campaign staffers.

He also said that he is prepared to meet with investigators from the Chester County District Attorney’s Office to go over what might have occurred to result in the filing of petitions in which the names of at least 16 voters were allegedly fraudulently submitted to the Department of State earlier this month.

“That is exactly right,” he said. “We are looking for swift and decisive action.”

Chester County District Attorney Chris de Barrena-Sarobe said Wednesday his office was looking into the allegations of forgeries, but declined further comment.

The allegedly false signatures include four elected officials, including two Coatesville council members, a West Goshen supervisor, and Chester County Common Pleas Judge Alita Rovito. At least 16 voters’ signatures have been identified as forgeries by a group of freelance investigators familiar with the nominating petition process, those involved said.

In telephone comments Wednesday, Pinsley said he had no clear explanation as to why or how those signatures had appeared on his petitions. He suggested however that they may have been submitted improperly by others outside his campaign. “It could be a variety of things.”

“The initial report came to our attention through a journalist from Philly,” Pinsley said in an email Wednesday afternoon in a reply to questions from MediaNews Group. “At present, we lack clarity on the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

On Friday, Pinsley suggested the proper venue for questioning the petitions was a legal complaint, and not allegations made to reporters.

“As you may be aware, a formal procedure, outlined by the Secretary of State, exists for lodging complaints,” he said. “Despite the gravity of recent claims, it is essential to note that no complaints have been lodged through this prescribed method. It is imperative to underscore the importance of adhering to established protocols when addressing such matters.

“Certain individuals have chosen alternative avenues to voice their concerns, seemingly bypassing the formal process and using your media outlet to tell a story that is slanted,” he said. “The deviation from formal procedures raises questions regarding the genuine intent behind these actions, leading us to believe that their motivations may extend beyond a sincere desire to address the issues at hand.

“Instead, garnering media attention may be the primary objective,” Pinsley said.

The deadline for formally challenging petitions passed on Tuesday.

Frank, in response, attempted to turn the tables on Pinsley.

“Shame on Pinsley’s campaign for not vetting the paid volunteers on his campaign and now distracting you and others away from the illegalities surrounding his campaign,” she wrote to a reporter. “I am not the target, but rather someone who knows how much effort goes into getting legitimate signatures on behalf of the candidates I support, and take offense when I see someone looking for a shortcut to a serious political process.

“The person Pinsley should be questioning is his campaign manager,” Frank said. “His campaign should own their mistakes and take responsibility.”

In Pennsylvania, candidates for office are responsible for filing nominating petitions for both local and state office. The time window to do so is relatively small, so many candidates seek volunteers to help them gain the requisite number of signatures.

For state offices such as auditor general, candidates must collect at least 1,000 signatures, with 100 from at least five counties. But the process is exacting, and volunteers must follow state Election Code rules for the signatures.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

Source: Berkshire mont

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