York County President Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh issued a decision Wednesday afternoon determining candidate Bonner Smith can stay on the Republican ballot for county controller.
Linebaugh denied incumbent Robb Green's request to remove Smith from the ballot, but wrote in his decision that many of the 390 signatures Smith collected for his nomination petition were invalid.
Still, Linebaugh ruled that 291 of the signatures were good, and that's enough the meet the 250-signature requirement to get on the ballot.
The judge wrote that the case was difficult to consider because of the strict timelines imposed by the state's Election Code; he said Tuesday that he had to clear several items from his schedule to hold election hearings that day so that the decisions could be issued by the Wednesday deadline.
He also noted in the decision that Smith's "seemingly haphazard approach to getting signatures" didn't aid the process of reviewing his petition. Linebaugh threw out 99 signatures because they weren't done appropriately,scolding the candidate in his written ruling.
"The Court would like to admonish any individuals seeking public office to be conscientious in complying with the requirements for a proper nominating petition," he wrote.
He ordered Smith to amend his petition within seven days, including first names for people who had only provided an initial, and amend his statement of financial interest to include sources of income for which he was paid $1,300 or more. The latter addresses Green's concern about whether Smith's occupation should be listed as a mayor of Stewartstown or a registered nurse.
After the ruling came down, Green said "the judge has spoken" and added that he looks forward to the Republican primary against Smith.
He said the county has an informed electorate, and voters know who is the best candidate.
His opponent's candidacy papers were "sloppy and inaccurate," Green said. "Do you really want a controller who is not accurate?" said Green, a two-term incumbent.
The county controller supervises the fiscal affairs of the county, including the accounts of all county officers, and performs audits and makes sure the county meets legal financial reporting guidelines.
Smith said he's a "very detail-oriented" person, but it's difficult to go door-to-door, "wind blowing and pouring rain," wrestling papers.
"I don't think there were any that had coffee stains or anything like that on it, but I have seen that from other candidates," he said.
His attorney, Christian Miller, said Smith is a straightforward and honest person who's not trying to "circumvent the system."
The names removed weren't fraudulent, they just were ineligible for other reasons, Miller said.
Multiple signatures were tossed because the signers were Democrats; same-party affiliation is needed for petitions. In other places on the petition, initials and abbreviations or "dittos" were used, though they're not permitted.
Miller said Green's complaints were just a strategy to knock Smith out of the race "and not give the Republican voters at least a choice" on the ballot.
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