'Rick Santorum' signs baseball petition in Wilmington

The petition needs roughly 2,800 valid signatures of registered, Wilmington voters to become official.
The petition needs roughly 2,800 valid signatures of registered, Wilmington voters to become official.
Nathan Evick checks the signatures with registered names in the elections database.
Nathan Evick checks the signatures with registered names in the elections database.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A petition that aims to make sure Wilmington spends no tax payer money on a baseball stadium was turned into the board of elections Wednesday with thousands of names, including one former presidential candidate.

More specifically, the name that appears on the petition is "Rick (expletive deleted) Santorum," who according to the petition is a resident of Pennsylvania but has lived in Wilmington for 14 years.

Former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum would not be eligible to sign the petition since it is only open to registered voters of Wilmington. The New Hanover County Board of Elections also has no registered voter by that name. This is part of the challenge the board faces when trying to verify that only registered Wilmington voters signed the petition.

Another potential problem for backers of the petition trying to reach the necessary 2,800 number is duplicate signatures. According to elections director Marvin McFadyen, each resident can only sign their name one time.

"James Smith could have signed it Jim Smith, so we can't always verify solely on the name alone, and that's where we're gonna use data that's specific to the individual," said McFadyen.

While going through the hundreds of pages of the petition, several names appear to have been signed more than once, including elected officials, a party chair, and former candidates.

New Hanover County School Board member Jeannette Nichols name shows up three times on the petition with the same address and what appears to be the same signature.

New Hanover County Republican Party Chair Rhonda Amoroso appears to have signed the petition twice, along with former School Board candidate Steven Bilizi.

WECT.com spoke to Jeannette Nichols on the phone who told us she did sign the petition once, but did not remember signing multiple times. Rhonda Amoroso has not yet returned our calls.

Josh Fulton, one of the organizers of the petition, says he is not surprised that a few people signed their name more than once, and that is why they specifically aimed to get more signatures than the 2,800 required - knowing that some would be thrown out.

If there are not enough signatures for the petition, the process doesn't end there: the group behind the petitions can continue its effort of collecting new names to add to what's already been verified.

Elections officials say they should be done verifying the rest of the names by Friday, but looking ahead to the November election, the issue would need to be certified by the city before August 1 to make the ballot.

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