Member of the Delaware County Board of Elections were at a stalemate right down party lines on two issues at the end of a five-hour hearing Monday.
The board held a special meeting Monday morning to hear testimony and decide whether signatures on 85 petitions it received — to place the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act on the November 2016 ballot — were properly signed.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive, asking all 88 Ohio counties’ boards of elections to review petitions again and determine whether signatures were “properly witnessed.”
The two issues before the local board, according to the directive, concerned signatures that were blacked out or crossed out with a black marker and the number of signatures reported at the top of the petitions.
Only two witnesses appeared Monday and another testified by phone — from 13 petition circulators who were subpoenaed to appear. The board had not heard back from all of the county’s law enforcement agencies that delivered the subpoenas, so the board couldn’t confirm whether the 10 witnesses had deliberately not attended the hearing.
Petitioners for Drug Price Relief Act have filed a lawsuit against Husted to force him to send the proposed bill to the General Assembly.
Two of the witnesses at Monday’s hearing testified that they did not redact any of the signatures on the petitions.
Board members Ed Helvey and Bruce Burnworth, both Democrats, voted against a motion to decertify the petitions and board members Steve Cuckler and Shawn Stevens, both Republicans, voted for the motion.
There were petitions that had the number “28” at the top, indicating there were 28 signatures on the petition, but the number of actual signatures were much lower.
Helvey and Burnsworth voted against the motion to decertify those petitions and Cuckler and Stevens voted for the motion.
Husted will be the tie-breaking vote in these motions.
Twenty-eight petitions had problems related to the “28” issue, 22 petitions had signatures redacted and four petitions had both problems.
The phone witness testified that she didn’t write the number 28 that appeared on the top of her petitions. The board voted unanimously to decertify her petitions at the end of the hearing.
The board also voted unanimously to decertify petitions by a circulator only known as “Alphonse” because that circulator had signed other petitions with a first and last name.
The number of signatures decertified was not immediately available.
The proposed bill would prevent state entities from purchasing prescription drugs, namely those that are life-saving medications, such as AIDS and cancer drugs, from buying drugs at higher price rate than the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Twenty-four Ohio counties immediately recertified their previous petitions without holding hearings.
The petitions were certified by all 88 counties in December.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.