AUSTINTOWN Officials explain petition details
One candidate is seeking the removal of another candidate from the ballot.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- When it comes to the validity of a person's printed signature on a candidate's nominating petition, the law is pretty cut and dry, says an Ohio Secretary of State spokesman and the head of the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
Unless a person has first printed his or her signature on his or her voter registration card, a printed signature is not valid on nominating petitions, said Carlo LoParo of the secretary of state's office and Mark Munroe, Mahoning elections board chairman.
But that didn't stop the board's three other members, over Munroe's objections, from allowing the printed signature of Ashley Jenkins of Huntmere Avenue on the nominating petition of Linda Marie Roca, an Austintown township trustee candidate, to be counted as valid.
A 1992 Ohio Supreme Court decision states that a candidate must sign their name, not print it, for it to be considered a valid signature on nominating petitions. There is only one exemption -- if that person printed their signature on their voter registration card, LoParo said.
If the board had ruled that Jenkins' printed signature wasn't valid, Roca would have fallen short by one signature from having the 25 needed to stay on the ballot, and thus would have been disqualified.
Jenkins signed her name on her voter registration card, which she submitted to the elections board last year.
"We had to disqualify that signature," Munroe said. "What we did is completely contrary to law. I'm really quite frustrated by the whole board."
Despite the problem, there is nothing the local elections board or the secretary of state can do now, LoParo said.
After the election board certifies candidates, they cannot be removed from the ballot less than 50 days before the election, he said. That deadline passed Monday.
The only remedy is for someone to file a lawsuit against the elections board to get the signature disqualified, which would get Roca off the ballot, LoParo added.
That is what Lisa Oles, another Austintown township trustee candidate, did Wednesday. Oles filed a claim in the 7th District Court of Appeals against the elections board seeking the disqualification of Jenkins' signature from Roca's petition.
After being told of the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, Robert Wasko and Michael Morley, elections board directors who voted to permit the Jenkins' signature, said they have no regrets about their decision.
"I think it's important that we, as board members, do our best to protect the voters and to keep people on the ballots rather than find ways to keep them off," Morley said.
"As long as someone would appear before us [as Jenkins did] and testify that it's their signature, who am I to say it isn't?" Wasko added.
It's statements like that that concern Munroe, however.
"I get very nervous when the board exercises too much discretion, particularly when the law is clear," he said. "When the board picks and chooses where they are lenient, it takes us back to a time when you got on or off the ballot based on who you knew."
This is the second controversial issue the local elections board has had in recent weeks regarding the eligibility of candidates on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Democrat Clarence Boles, who is running for Youngstown City Council's 6th Ward seat, filed a lawsuit last month against the board saying it erred when it didn't remove his Republican opponent, JoAnn Collier, from the ballot.
Collier withdrew as a Democratic candidate for the seat, and refiled as a Republican, something the secretary of state's office said should not have been permitted.