The Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled that the Delaware County Board of Elections must place a Porter Township candidate’s name back on the ballot.
Doug Crowl, who filed to run for a seat on the Porter Township board of trustees, had said in his filing with the Supreme Court that the board of elections “abused its discretion by not considering the evidence and testimony presented” in a protest hearing in September.
Crowl collected 28 signatures on a petition for his candidacy. He needed just 25 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
However, the board invalidated eight of the signatures as “non-genuine” because the signatures did not match voter registration records.
Crowl, who serves as the road superintendent in Kingston Township, filed a protest of the decision. At the hearing, he presented sworn affidavits from each of the eight individuals whose signatures were in question.
Despite that, the four-member board of elections ultimately voted 3-1 to deny Crowl’s protest.
The Supreme Court noted that “the board contends that it has no discretion to accept a non-matching signature on a nominating petition, even if the signatories come forward to authenticate their signatures.”
Crowl’s court filing said the board “had a legal obligation and duty once they convened the protest hearing to actually consider the evidence and testimony presented in said hearing when making their final determination. It is obvious they did not.”
The court, in its 6-1 decision, noted that “the board of elections admitted that the eight signatures in question were genuine. … Because the board admitted that the signatures were genuine, it abused its discretion when it denied Crowl a place on the ballot.”
Citing another recent decision involving the Franklin County Board of Elections, the court said, “we confronted a similar issue, and, in accordance with the evidence presented as to the authenticity of the questioned signature, directed the board to count it as valid.”
In a concurring opinion, it was said that “this is a problem in need of a statutory remedy by the General Assembly. … Boards of elections need guidance on when to invalidate mismatched signatures and what evidence will suffice to validate a signature that does not match the signatory’s legal mark. The General Assembly should also consider whether voters should be required to updated their legal mark on their voter-registration records or whether voters should be allowed to sign the voter-registration record both in cursive and by printing.”
Incumbent Trustee Ed Snodgrass is running for re-election in Porter Township. Crowl is his sole opponent.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak. Dustin Ensinger contributed to this story.