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Signature Controversy Could Keep Kasich Off the PA Primary Ballot

A court will probably decide whether an objection to Gov. Kasich's filing signature should keep the GOP presidential hopeful off of the Pennsylvania primary ballot in April.

A last minute objection to ballot signatures filed by Governor Kasich could keep the GOP presidential hopeful off the Pennsylvania primary ballot next month.

Reporter Karen Langley wrote about the dispute for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Langley says at issue are 192 votes an objector says are invalid. She says a lawyer for Governor Kasich concedes but says the objection came after the filing deadline.

Langley says it’s likely the matter will be decided by a three-judge panel.

Langley says a recent poll shows Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Governor Kasich closely trailing front-runner Donald Trump in Pennsylvania.

Hear Marilyn Smith's conversation with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Karen Langley.

The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Marilyn Smith: What are the rules in Pennsylvania for a presidential candidate to get on the ballot?

Karen Langley: Pennsylvania requires presidential candidates for major parties to submit 2,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.

MS: And so what has Governor Kasich done in the state?

KL: Governor Kasich like along with the other candidates for president submitted their signatures last month. At the end of that period to object to these nominating petitions, a Pennsylvania registered Republican filed an objection asserting that Governor Kasich doesn't actually have 2,000 valid signatures to meet this threshold.

MS: Who was the objector?

KL: His name is Nathaniel Rome. It seems that he's a supporter of Marco Rubio. His name is at the bottom of a website for Pennsylvania students for Rubio. I was unable to get in touch with him yesterday to talk about this though.

MS: So how valid is his objection?

KL: After the court received this objection and set a hearing and ordered the two sides to get together and go over the signatures. At the conclusion of that the lawyers both for Governor Kasich and for the objector signed a stipulation agreeing to the Kasich had filed 2,148 signatures and that 192 of those were not valid for reasons such as the person who circulated some of the petitions was not actually registered to vote or he said he was.

So this would bring Kasich below the required 2,000 signature threshold, but his lawyer argues that this doesn't matter because he says the objection was filed too late for the court to consider it.

MS: It was too late by minutes right?

KL: That's right both sides agree that this objection has a time stamp for filing of 5:13 p.m. on the last day to file objections. And so the lawyer for Governor Kasich says that this makes it 13 minutes too late and that therefore it can't be considered. On the other side, the lawyer for the objector says no that the law does not specify a 5 p.m deadline and if the legislature wanted to make it 5 p.m. that it would have said so.

MS: What does the rule actually say?

KL: The way they described it in court yesterday it does not set an explicit time for the deadline for filing the objections, but rather says that there is a seven day period to object after the petitions are filed.

And so Governor Kasich's lawyer says well there is an explicit 5 p.m. deadline to file the nominating petitions and so therefore that starts a seven day period that would end seven full days later at 5 p.m. The other side says no that they don't believe that you can read such an exact deadline into the law.

MS: Well if the deadline wasn't at the end of the typical business day, who would you file your objection with at midnight?

KL: One thing that the judge brought up yesterday is that this law was put in place at a time when people may not have been anticipating electronic filing. That at the time it may have been a given that after the doors were closed that you couldn't get in there, but they were able to physically get into the office after 5 p.m.

There was some discussion in the courtroom about how exactly that went about, the lawyer for Governor Kasich was saying he heard that the door was locked and that a civilian in the room went and let the filer of the objection in. But it sounds like the court is asking for more information about that and may or may not consider it.

MS: So where does this issue go from here?

KL: The judge noted that this case is a matter of significance. She called it both because it's about a presidential election, and because there doesn't seem to be a legal precedent about what exactly the deadline is. She said that it may go to a three judge panel instead of just being considered by her and she has asked both sides for more documents to be submitted next week.

So we are not expecting a decision on this before the second half of next week at the earliest which is of course after some significant primary elections that are coming up both in Ohio and in Florida, states that are obviously very important to Governor Kasich and Senator Rubio.

MS: Karen Langley of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Harrison bureau thank you so much.

KL: Thanks it's nice talking with you.