The Ohio Supreme Court decided Thursday to deny former Ohio 12th Congressional Republican candidate Melanie Leneghan’s request to compel Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to reject the ballots of 16 precincts in Muskingum County and to hold a new election.
“Because relators (Leneghan) have not alleged facts sufficient to establish causation — an essential element of undoing the election results — we are compelled to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim unless relators’ pending motion for leave to file a second amended complaint would cure the deficiency,” states the justices’ slip opinion no. 2018-Ohio-3361. “…We deny the motion for leave to amend.”
Leneghan lost to Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, in the May 8 Republican primary for the nomination to run in the Aug. 7 special election and November general election to replace Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa, who resigned to head the Ohio Business Roundtable.
Leneghan lost the May primary to Balderson by one percentage point.
“Melanie and I ran strong campaigns, and I thoroughly enjoyed our substantive debate over the future of the 12th District,” Balderson said Thursday after learning of the court’s decision. “I’m grateful for the support I received in the primary and the special election, and I look forward to earning the support of voters again in November as I share my record of cutting taxes and creating jobs in Ohio.”
Balderson had filed a motion asking to enter into the case stating that he believes in open, honest and fair elections, and “has an interest in ensuring that every legal vote counts, and would be substantially harmed if a lawful process is not followed that ensures the integrity of the result of the May 8, 2018, primary election in the 12th district.”
In Muskingum County, Leneghan placed second, receiving 11 percent of the total votes. Balderson received 78 percent of the votes in a 10-candidate field. Suspicious of the Muskingum results, Leneghan paid for a recount of the votes in select parts of the district’s precincts on June 6. The results of the recount found no substantial change in the numbers.
Leneghan filed a complaint with the court June 20, accusing the Muskingum County Board of Elections of fraudulent acts during the recount by alleging that two days prior to the scheduled recount, Muskingum County staff opened the ballot’s sealed containers without the action being observed by the designated representatives of the candidates.
“Relators (Leneghan) have not made a single allegation that the premature opening of ballots or the production of a misdated or incorrectly described tally sheet affected any votes,” states the justices’ slip opinion. “Any remarkable change in the vote totals from what was reported immediately after the primary election would have been patently obvious … to Leneghan’s … observers. Yet (Leneghan) allege(s) no such deviation.”
On June 28, Leneghan amended her complaint, asking that Husted and the Muskingum County BOE be compelled to set aside and not count the ballots of 16 precincts. Then, alternatively, issue a writ of mandamus ordering for a new election in Muskingum County for the Republican nomination for representative to the Congressional 12th District, and oversee the election to ensure the voters’ choice can be known.
“Instead, their entire theory of causation is that these technical violations cast such a cloud of doubt upon the results that the remedy must be to discard all the ballots from these 16 precincts, after which Leneghan should be declared the winner of the primary election. But not every violation of R.C. Title 35 constitutes “fraud” that warrants changing the results of an election,” state the justices’ slip opinion.
The Gazette reached out to the Secretary of State’s Office for comment on the court’s decision.
“The court’s dismissal made clear what we already knew to be true, that the votes in the May primary were accurately recorded and correctly reflected in the results at every stage of the elections process,” said Sam Rossi, Ohio Secretary of State spokesman.
Leneghan did not return calls for comment.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.