College freshman Seth Koren is challenging College and Wharton senior Charles Gray’s place on the alternate delegate ballot for the Republican National Convention.
Both are currently on the ballot, but Koren is formally challenging the validity of Gray’s signatures which he collected to submit his nomination petition. If Gray, a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist and chairman of College Republicans, formally challenges Koren’s claims, the dispute will be resolved by a judge.
Alternate delegates must collect a minimum of 250 signatures to be placed onto the ballot in the April primaries. Koren, who is not affiliated with the College Republicans, does not believe the majority of Gray’s signatures meet the criteria.
Each candidate must submit a nomination petition and garner 250 signatures from qualified and registered electors of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and of the political party named in the nomination petition.
Each elector must personally date, sign and print his or her name as it appears on registration records, a complete address — including township, if applicable.
Koren went door-to-door to houses of registered Republicans within the second congressional district, which includes Penn’s campus, and asked residents to sign his petition. This method of obtaining signatures allowed Koren to ensure that his signers were registered Republicans and that their addresses were correct.
Koren, however, did not collect all of his signatures himself. Along with a group of five other people, they helped each other garner signatures. Two were also running to be alternate delegates, and the other three to be delegates. Koren said this practice is not unusual. He trusted that the signatures that were collected for him were valid.
Gray, who would only comment on the issue through an emailed statement, wrote that Koren is “really grasping at straws in this challenge.”
According to Gray, Koren is challenging 104 of Gray’s collected signatures on the basis that they do not match exactly to the names on voter registration cards.
Koren spent approximately six hours comparing the signatures Gray received to an online database of registered Pennsylvanian Republicans. “I determined that many of Mr. Gray’s lines, signatures were … invalid against the criteria set out by the state,” he said.
“[Koren] challenged my signature since I signed ‘Charles Gray,’ because I probably wrote ‘Charles J Gray’ or used my full middle name instead when I registered. He challenged other students’ signatures in this manner as well,” Gray wrote.
“The court usually looks for voter intent, and I clearly intended to sign my own petition, so there’s a good chance that the challenge will not stand,” he added.
Koren did not collect signatures at Penn. “I specifically made sure I didn’t really go around looking for signatures here. It’s a college campus and most people aren’t registered as Republicans.”
Koren, however, said he heard second-hand accounts of Gray collecting signatures on Locust Walk, which prompted Koren to be suspicious of their validity.
Wharton junior Laura Brown, president of College Republicans, confirmed Koren’s suspicions. “I know that he was asking for signatures on Locust Walk,” she said, adding that many Penn students are not registered Republicans or are not registered in Pennsylvania.
Brown added that the College Republicans are not involved with Gray’s candidacy and any potential legal issues would have no effect on the student group.
“It’s unfortunate, though, that Seth would use this tactic to try to invalidate the signatures of fellow students like me who were simply engaging in their democratic right to place a candidate on the ballot by signing a petition,” Gray wrote. “It is really hurting the opportunity for young people to have representation at the convention.”
Koren noticed issues with some of his other opponents’ signatures as well, but is only challenging Gray. He declined to say whether the fact that Gray is a fellow Penn student made him his target.
“It’s important that the candidates put in the time to show that they have public support and show that they have the drive to do this,” Koren said.
This article has been revised to reflect that the five people Koren collected signatures with are not all alternate delegate hopefuls. Only two of them are.