Cans Before Courts

If someone could explain to me why the ballot position lottery was held before the petition challenge hearings, I’d really appreciate it.

If you watched Wednesday’s edition of Philadelphia Hall Monitor, you saw Larry and I talk about our trip to the ballot position lottery for the May 16 primary.

It was the second time I had ever attended it, and as city traditions go, it’s not so bad. For a coffee can connected to a food chain that hasn’t been around since the 1990s, it didn’t look half bad.

Candidates for city offices big and small were gathered in the Mayor’s Reception Room on the second floor of City Hall to pick their numbers so that they can put that number on every piece of campaign literature that they’ll be handing out to voters from now until the primary election polls close.

But even while we were watching people pick their ballot positions Larry and I heard murmurs that made me think that this might be a bit out of order. That’s because many of the people picking ballot positions — most notably Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier and Quetcy Lozada and Democratic mayoral candidate Amen Brown — are having their petitions challenged.

On Tuesday, the day before the ballot position lottery, voters began filing these petition challenges. These voters take a long, hard look at petitions filed by candidates to see if the signatures are on the up and up.

Among the things that these voters, many of whom are committee people, ward leaders, or activists, look for are signatures that look too similar, signatures from people who either don’t live in the district (for district council people) or in the city (for row offices), signatures of people who have died, and such characters as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.

(And before you ask, yes, I have seen Mickey Mouse’s name on a nominating petition. My guess is that the person who did that had gotten to the point where they were tired of being asked to sign petitions. Can’t really blame them for that.)

If it’s determined that there are enough of these errors on petitions to bring a candidate below the threshold of legal signatures needed to get on the ballot — you need 750 signatures for district races, 1,000 from all the districts for city-wide races — that candidate will be kicked off.

The candidate will be able to appeal, but by the time those appeals wind their way through the courts, valuable campaign time is lost. Seeing as the primary is only 60 days away, that could be a real problem.

While people being knocked off the ballot may help people who have gotten a challenging ballot position and may not have the resources to bump up their name recognition, I can’t help but notice that this is, well, more than a little backward.

I know that a lot of the stuff governing elections is determined by the Commonwealth, so you can’t move up petition turn-in day or petition challenge day. But there are some things that the City has got to have some control over, right?

Like, for example, when ballot positions are picked. Since the hearings are on Friday, wouldn’t it make more sense to do the petition turn-in lottery on Monday, when we have a better idea of who is going to actually be on the ballot?

I mean, the commissioners keep the Horn and Hardart can and the number beads in a safe. It’s not like either of these things are going anywhere.

By doing it this way, there’s a potential to have to waste a lot of time.

Well, at least the ballots themselves haven’t been printed or put together yet. Or maybe they have. We don’t know that yet.

Hopefully, we’ll know by Friday. And you’ll know on Wednesday when you tune in to Philadelphia Hall Monitor.

Our reporters sit through hours of city council meetings, dig through piles of documents, and ask tough questions other media overlook. Because we’re committed to addressing Philadelphia’s poverty crisis — and challenging those who sustain it. If you think this work is important too, please support our journalism.

We’re counting on readers like you.


We monitor Philly's local halls of power to bring you the news you need to know.

City Council News No One Else Is Covering. 

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.