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Melvin Prince Johnakin Suit Supports Candidate Rights

April 07, 2022

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim has filed a suit against the state of Pennsylvania on behalf of Melvin Prince Johnakin supporting his right to run for office without obtaining signatures during the pandemic.

Attorney van der Veen and the entire team are ardent supporters of free, fair and open elections. The firm fiercely supports democracy, voter rights and candidate rights.

Gathering Signatures for Nomination Papers Is Both Illegal and Practically Impossible Under Pennsylvania Law

Petitioning to qualify candidates and political bodies for Pennsylvania’s November 3, 2020 general election ballot is not defined as an “essential” activity under Governor Wolf’s March 23 stay at home order or any subsequent amendments thereto. The public health emergency caused by COVID-19 and the various “stay at home” orders issued by Governor Wolf make it unlawful and practically impossible to gather signatures for nomination papers in Pennsylvania. The Governor’s website stated that “[l]aw enforcement remains focused on achieving voluntary compliance through education, but citations are possible for violators depending on the specific circumstances of an investigation.”[1] Further, government officials at virtually every level are directing people to stay at home, to practice “social distancing” and to avoid being within six feet of other people.

As a result of the orders and directives issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic prohibiting non-essential solicitation Prince Johnakin and his supporters have encountered significant difficulty with and have been unable to have in-person interaction with the senior citizen population of the 3rd Congressional District to secure signatures. Safer and less burdensome alternatives are available. Prince Johnakin has lost the over 14 weeks of in person signature collection time allotted to him under Pennsylvania law.

This suit will allow Attorney van der Veen to demand relief for Prince Johnakin who is a committed, dedicated, and caring would-be public servant.

van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim files complaint on behalf of Melvin Prince Johnakin in The US District Court For The Eastern District Of Pennsylvania

van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim files complaint on behalf of Melvin Prince Johnakin in The United States District Court For The Eastern District Of Pennsylvania against the U.S. Postal Service, Louis DeJoy and Donald Trump. This filing has profound significance as the election draws near. Attorney van der Veen’s unique approach and passion for this cause are inspiring.

van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, led by firm founder Michael T. van der Veen, has filed suit on behalf of Melvin Prince Johnakin in Pennsylvania federal court to reverse recent U.S. Postal Service operational changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that have slowed mail delivery and raised concerns that mail-in ballots in the upcoming election could go uncounted.

The suit seeks an order that would force USPS to enact measures to make sure mail-in and absentee ballots in Pennsylvania are treated as Priority Mail, which offers delivery between one and three days. In addition, the suit asks for an order that would reverse operational changes including the removal of mailboxes and reduction in staffing hours to help ensure the timely delivery of ballots and other election mail.

Johnakin’s viewpoint is clear, “In light of [the] expansion of mail-in voting, and the barriers to in-person voting posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Pennsylvanians voting by mail will increase dramatically in the upcoming elections. However, their ballots will be subject to the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service, thereby causing plaintiffs and many Pennsylvanians who vote by mail to face an impermissible risk of arbitrary disenfranchisement, in violation of their constitutional rights.”

Voting is a fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment protects the right of qualified citizens to vote in state elections involving federal candidates. Included within the right to vote is the right of qualified voters within a state to cast their ballots and have them counted if they are validly cast.

COVID-19 has caused most public gatherings to be curtailed and restricted. Pennsylvania’s upcoming elections pose a public health threat. To exercise the fundamental right to vote, many voters have and will utilize all available means to vote by mail rather than in person at a polling place. Advanced planning and proactive measures will be necessary to ensure that voters have sufficient access to vote by mail to preserve and protect the essential right to vote and prevent large-scale disenfranchisement.

Click here to view Complaint

Click here to view Exhibit "A"


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