There are a great deal of accusations and assumptions being tossed around the blogosphere concerning the circumstances that brought about Kim Velez's withdrawal as an Allentown City Council Candidate. This all started with her petitions, and if you want to find the truth of the matter, it is not a bad idea to start at the beginning.
So Friday Morning I returned to Lehigh County Voter Registration and paid $1.75 for copies of the seven pages of signatures she submitted. Kim originally collected and submitted 6 pages with 108 signatures, but she later added 17 more that were collected by current City Councilwoman Jeannette Eichenwald.
So to set the record absolutely straight, Kim Velez's public record shows she submitted 125 signatures. That's how many are on the 7 pages she presented.
Now it is true she only needed 100. So with the help of the friendly staff and the use of a computer terminal, I spent from 9:45 until 12:45 Checking the Lehigh County voter rolls of EVERY SINGLE SIGNATURE on those pages.
The great thing about Lehigh County voter registration records is you can check registration by name or address, and see what the person's party is. The first thing I did was enter each last name and search it. If it came back no voter, I would enter the address. When an address pops up it shows all who are registered to vote there. A recurring issue with Kim Velez's petitions was that no such person was on the voter rolls at the address. That doesn't mean they don't live there, It just means they were not registered to vote.I found at least 22 names that were not registered to vote. As they are not registered voters of any party, especially the Democratic party which they need to be, they are not qualified electors.
That dropped the number of "GOOD" signatures to 103.
On the names that were registered voters, I found at least 12 names that were registered as other parties or no affiliation at all. They are not qualified electors either for Miss Velez, and that drops her "GOOD" signatures total to 91.
There were four signatures where the name or address were illegible, and attempts to guess were futile. The system allows trying the first three letters of a last name, and when even the addresses had no one with matching names, I took those out as well. that drops the total to 87.
There were 4 more signatures that are what can be listed as with "correctable defects." The date a person signs a petition is important, as it shows the petition was circulated during the allotted period. These particular signatures had the zip code written instead of the date. That puts them in question, and drops the total to 83. I found one more signature, it was by a registered Democrat, but it had one problem: They were registered to vote in South Whitehall, not Allentown.
Whether anyone likes it or not, I hate to tell you, but these petitions would not have survived a challenge.
The thing is, I think the more the merrier is good for Democracy, but you have to follow the rules. I have filed many petitions and never had one challenged. First, because I got more than I needed, and second because as I was getting them I made sure the person I was asking to sign was a qualified elector before handing them the pen. Then I had them sign exactly as they were registered.
It is not that hard to do. When you get your petitions from Lehigh County Voter Registration and register as a candidate, they give you a walk lists of all the precincts. It is simple, you just have to read the list and go right down the street.
I feel badly for Miss Velez, but I also feel bad for Tim Brennan. Tim is a personal friend, and the way he has been portrayed has truly bothered him. I know Tim as one of the most honest and ethical men I have ever met. I do not believe for a minute that he misrepresented himself on the phone as acting on behalf of the Lehigh County Democratic Party. I believe Tim when he tells me that all he was doing was asking her to come to his office on Monday so he could point out the flaws in her petitions. And they are flawed.
I still don't know who the client was, and that is for others to speculate on, but if you put everything else aside, Kim Velez did not meet the burden of legitimate signatures that the law requires.
All the other candidates did. How can we reward Miss Velez with a ballot position if at the end of the day, it is proven she did not earn it. If she is allowed on the ballot, a candidate might as well write the names of 100 different fictional cartoon characters down and give them whatever address they want.
Voter reg isn't going to check the names, all they do is count how many, checking the names is up to regular folks if they have doubts. Someone had doubts about Kim Velez's petitions and hired Tim Brennan to check it out. That is the way the system works, if you don't like it, work to change it.
One last point of order: I am a Lehigh County Democratic Committeeman. I have done various research for many of the political operatives in the valley area. I pride myself on being thorough. On this instance, I was not approached by anyone to do this research and I have shared it with other bloggers and parts of the media.
I also want to give a special thanks to Tim Benyo and Terri Harkins, as well as other staff at Lehigh County Voter registration for putting up with me for three hours in their office as I researched every last signature. I would like to point out that they helped me verify at least a dozen signatures as being good, as well as the 43 I found to be bad..
I have decided against posting the petitions online, even if they are public record. I believe the people who signed have a right to privacy, and possibly would not be willing to get involved in the Democratic process next time if they knew their names and addresses, as well as party affiliation, would be splattered on the Internet.