HARRISBURG – An independent presidential candidate from Florida has initiated legal action against a pair of state election officials, claiming they are improperly preventing his name from appearing on ballots for the general election in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
On Aug. 15, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente of Orlando, Fla. filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, alleging Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes and Commissioner of the Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, Jonathan Marks, incorrectly interpreted a Pennsylvania state statute, which blocked his name from being listed on ballots in the Presidential Election this year.
De La Fuente is a registered and enrolled member of the Florida Democratic Party and was a candidate for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the office of President of the United States – and listed on the Pennsylvania primary election ballot for that purpose.
“On or about Aug. 1, 2016, plaintiff’s agents timely filed with defendants, pursuant to 25 P.S. Section 2911 (a) – (e), nomination papers containing over 5,000 valid signatures of qualified electors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania naming plaintiff as a candidate for President of the United States, and a slate of presidential electors pledged to cast their vote for plaintiff if elected to the Electoral College to be included on the Commonwealth’s 2016 general election ballot,” the lawsuit reads.
De La Fuente said Cortes and Marks “lacked statutory authority” to reject his nomination papers on the grounds provided in 25 P.S. Section 2911.1; namely, that even though De La Fuente had appeared on the primary election ballot for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the office of President of the United States, he wasn’t a member of a registered party in Pennsylvania.
“Plaintiff has never been a registered and enrolled member of any party within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff has never been a registered and enrolled member of any political party which has qualified as a party within the meaning of 25 P.S.,” the lawsuit read.
In part, 25 P.S. Section 2911.1 provides, “Any person who is a registered and enrolled member of a party during any period of time beginning with thirty (30) days before the primary and extending through the general or municipal election of that same year, shall be ineligible to be the candidate of a political body in a general or municipal election held in that same year, nor shall any person who is a registered and enrolled member of a party be eligible to be the candidate of a political body for a special election.”
Since De La Fuente believed he did not fit that criteria, he saw no reason to be excluded from the general election ballot. De La Fuente claimed he sent a letter to Cortes on Aug. 3, demanding he reverse his office’s decision to rejection De La Fuente’s nomination papers. Cortes refused, leading to the litigation.
De La Fuente’s complaint seeks emergency mandamus, injunctive and declaratory relief that the defendants’ interpretation of the statute in question “impairs clearly established rights guaranteed to plaintiff under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and the Qualification Clause of Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution”, and should a judicial order find favor with De La Fuente's case, the state should accept his nomination papers for the 2016 Presidential Election within three business days.
De La Fuente’s desired relief would “prevent the state from enforcing 25 P.S. Section 2911.1 against independent and political body candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States who were registered and enrolled member of political parties outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania within thirty (30) days of the Commonwealth’s preceding primary election”, and declare this statute unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The plaintiff is represented by Paul Anthony Rossi in Kennett Square.
The defendants are represented by Keli M. Neary, Kenneth L. Joel and Nicole J. Radziewicz of the Office of the Attorney General, in Harrisburg.
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania case 1:16-cv-01696
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org