Westerville resident Neil Patel (D), who had submitted his petition to declare his candidacy in the May primary election for state treasurer, has dropped out of the race.
“I was a few signatures short, about 40,” Patel said in a phone interview with The Gazette on Monday. He said he had dropped out of the race after he had heard that his petition would not be certified for the May ballot.
After the Delaware County Board of Elections certified the petitions on Feb. 13, Ed Helvey, chairman of the board, said, “I have some concerns about Neil Patel’s petition.”
After examining the petition, all four members of the board approved a motion to send the petition and their concerns to the secretary of state.
Helvey explains the concern of the board in a letter to the Ohio Secretary of State. Helvey states the most serious of the concerns is it appears that Mr. Patel signed the circulator statement on two petitions that he did not witness at an event held by the Delaware County Democratic Party.
“Our event for this year was held on January 18, 2018, ” he states in the letter. “I can tell you that Mr. Patel was not in attendance that evening. An aide from his campaign was there to collect signatures, but Mr. Patel was not in the room. However, when you peruse the two petitions noted above, Mr. Patel signed as the circulator. Please reject these two part-petitions from his tally.”
In the phone interview with Patel, he said he wasn’t aware of the petitions being in question from the Delaware Democratic Party signing event. He said he couldn’t make the signing party because he was in Logan, Champaign and Clark counties that day having petitions signed.
“I have no idea on that,” he said. “My campaign manager was in charge of it.”
Helvey states he received an email from Patel’s campaign manager, Jordan Niebuhr, containing a petition signed by the candidate, but it was not dated. Niebuhr asked if the Democratic Party could help circulate the petitions for Patel.
“If people printed off these petitions and circulated them, they either did so without a dated signature, the signature was dated by someone other than the candidate, or the candidate dated his signature after signatures were collected,” Helvey states in his letter.
Helvey states that of the petitions circulated among the Delaware County electors, Patel circulated all but three of the 18 part-petitions submitted. He added that seven were filled in by hand and “eleven of the remaining petitions were computer-generated.” Helvey states to the secretary of state that three of the petitions appear to be identical to the undated petitions that were emailed to him by Niebuhr.
“One can argue that the candidate himself can date his own signature; however, given that this incomplete petition was widely distributed, all of the petitions that were completed from this email must be questioned,” he states in the letter. “If an undated signature disqualifies a petition, then an inaccurate date should disqualify the petition as well.”
Helvey states that his second concern was with five of the part-petitions where an address label for Niranjan R. Patel appears below the signature of Neil Patel.
“It appears that the circulator signed the part-petitions, but he did not write his address. Instead, he pasted an address label for Mr. Niranjan R. Patel below the signature of Neil Patel,” he states. “Since it is unclear from the four corners of the document … the part-petitions should be rejected.”
According to Karla Herron, Delaware County Board of Elections director, the secretary of state’s office has acknowledged receiving the paperwork from the board and are looking into the matter.
Helvey states at the end of his letter that the board was also contacting the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office for the investigation.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.