In a ruling that comes a few weeks too late to save U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire's campaign a day-long headache, the state Supreme Court released an opinion this week deeming that those circulating ballot petitions are not required to live within a candidate's district.
The high court's unanimous ruling, issued Monday, resolved a conflict between state and federal court decisions regarding the Pennsylvania Election Code by enforcing a 2002 federal court injunction against the residency requirement.
"It makes no sense to require petition circulators to live in the same district," said Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which handled the case for a candidate for the legislature in 2010. "It's an artificial barrier to allowing candidates to get on the ballot."
The issue came up most recently in a court battle over the Democratic congressional primary involving two Western Pennsylvania incumbents, Jason Altmire and Mark Critz. Walczak said multiple Commonwealth Court decisions had upheld the residency rule despite the federal injunction.
"The end result is that this residency requirement is unenforceable, period," he said. "So that should completely put to rest this issue."