Commonwealth Court candidate Christine Fizzano Cannon may have had a major problem Tuesday in Philadelphia:
Her last name was incorrect on an untold number of voting machines, perhaps as many of half of the machines citywide, according to her campaign.
Fizzano Cannon, a Delaware County Republican judge running for Commonwealth Court, appears on some Philadelphia voting machines only as "Christine Fizzano."
Lawrence Tabas, a lawyer for the campaign, said the missing word is significant – particularly in a low-profile judicial race without household names – because her campaign ads featured her full name.
"She went on TV, mail, the internet. You broadcast your name as Christine Fizzano Cannon and somebody going into the polling place not seeing the Cannon might think that's not the candidate," said Tabas, former general counsel for the state Republican Party.
Tabas said he was told by City Commissioner Al Schmidt that the error could be widespread. Schmidt is the lone Republican on the three-member board in charge of Philadelphia elections.
"It's just some sort of mistake, error, carelessness," Tabas said.
Pete Peterson, a spokesman for Fizzano Cannon, described it as a "colossal screwup."
"It is hard to fathom how, out of 67 counties, this would only happen in the city of Philadelphia, where Fizzano Cannon's principal opposition is a sitting Philadelphia judge," Peterson said.
Schmidt said the name was shortened by one of the city's plotters, or large ballot printers. The city has two plotters; the problem was with the older one.
"Everything was proofed every step of the way – correct, correct, correct," Schmidt said Tuesday afternoon. "When it went to one of the two plotters, it curtailed the last name because of its length."
The commissioners learned of the problem about 10 a.m. Tuesday, after getting a call from Fizzano Cannon's lawyer, Schmidt said.
In response, the commissioners posted a notice on their website "immediately," Schmidt said, and sent 22 teams out to post notices at the entrances to polling places around the city. They began distributing them before noon, Schmidt said.
"A whole bunch of issues pop up on Election Day," Schmidt said. "This is one that I haven't seen before."
Tabas said the error is particularly "bizarre" because he had checked ballots in all 67 Pennsylvania counties prior to the election. He did that because Fizzano Cannon's name had appeared incorrectly in about a dozen counties in the primary.
Philadelphia's general election ballot looked fine prior to Tuesday, Tabas said, but somehow the error still occurred in some voting machines.
Fizzano Cannon, a judge in Delaware County, is running against Democrats Ellen H. Ceisler, a Court of Common Pleas judge in Philadelphia, and Irene McLaughlin Clark, a Pittsburgh lawyer, and Republican Paul N. Lalley, a Pittsburgh lawyer. They're vying for two Commonwealth Court seats.
Tabas said he doesn't think Fizzano Cannon's name was deliberately altered in Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 7-1.
"I have no reason to believe there's any partisanship involved," Tabas said. "But it's happening to the Republican."
Peterson, however, said the mistake "raises some questions."
"Out of the three female Commonwealth Court candidates the only name they have wrong is the Republican, even after our campaign reviewed and approved a draft of the ballot that was correct," Peterson said.
Schmidt said the problem couldn't have been human error.
"That would suggest that somebody would have purposely manipulated the ballot in some way and expected no one to find out about it, which is completely implausible," he said. "The ballot that we approved was correct."
Schmidt doesn't know how widespread the error was.
"We won't know until we get the voting machines back," he said.