Normally, the Board of Elections (the actual board of 2 Dems and 2 Republicans) meets at 11 am on a Tuesday, in a public meeting to hear the presentation of facts from the BOE- the patronage job people in charge of elections, on which petitions are acceptable, and which aren’t. Somehow, they chose to meet at 4pm yesterday. Note, the doors to the BOE- the office doors, are normally locked at 4 p.m. prompt.
According to the Dayton Daily News, William Pace was denied a position on the ballot, despite having enough signatures, and despite having run for City Commission in the past and being on the ballot, because he failed to file a certificate of candidacy. Excuse me, but what are over 13 petitions with over 500 valid voters signatures- plus the candidates’ signature? I’d say that it meets the standard of his intent to be a candidate.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections ruled Thursday morning that William Pace did not qualify to run for Dayton City Commission because of a problem with his acceptance of candidacy, which had to be filed by Wednesday according to Dayton’s city charter.
Steve Harsman, deputy director of the BOE, said his office received the signed acceptance from Pace via a fax, time-stamped 7:38 p.m. Wednesday. Pace had learned at 5:45 p.m. that he had not signed the statement on his previously filed petitions.
The BOE met Thursday morning, and Harsman said the body asked for a legal opinion from the city of Dayton’s law director, John Danish. Harsman had said Wednesday that the BOE had not accepted faxed or e-mailed signatures in the past.
Danish said Pace’s fax was not sufficient.
“Our charter requires a candidate to file an acceptance of the candidacy,” Danish said. “And the word ‘filing,’ I believe under court cases, means physical delivery to a government office, and that a facsimile does not qualify.”
Harsman said the BOE and its own attorney felt bound by that opinion from the city’s law director, and therefore did not certify Pace to the May 7 ballot.
Asked whether he would appeal the BOE’s decision, Pace directed questions to his attorney, but did not answer when asked who that was.
Pace was upset Wednesday that he learned of the problem from the Dayton Daily News, rather than from the Board of Elections. But BOE Director Betty Smith pointed to a 2011 directive from the Secretary of State’s office that “prohibits boards of election from pre-checking petitions for prospective candidates or petitioners who seek review of their petitions’ validity and sufficiency.”
The directive also says that “it is a well-established principle of Ohio election law that the candidate is solely responsible for ensuring that his or her own petition satisfies the requirements of law.”
Now, here comes the bogus part. The charter also requires a form that has voters’ ward and precinct on it. Yet, filling that out is optional. There are blanks on other spots of the petition that sometimes are filled out- and others not. The date of the actual election varies from candidate to candidate- because the primary may not be needed if not enough candidates turn in acceptable petitions. And, last but not least, lawyers can and do file lawsuits every day electronically now- so why shouldn’t a fax or emailed signature be sufficient?
But, the main question is why was the meeting at the end of the day instead of at 11 a.m.? And, why, when I called to question BOE Director Steve Harsman the morning of the meeting, what the agenda would be and what they would present to the board was it top secret and not allowed to be revealed until 4 p.m.? Is this an issue of national security- or was he making sure that no one would tip Pace off to the fact that Harsman had found a new way to eliminate competition for the party picks? It is a dirty little secret that endorsed candidates have their petitions pre-checked before turn in by Board of Election staffers “on their lunch break” to make sure they have sufficient signatures. While Harsman always tells me I can sit and check my signatures- I always think it’s smarter to spend that time collecting more signatures. Today I put in a request for the exact counts on every candidate’s petitions, reasons for failed signatures and number of voter registration forms turned in with the petitions. For the record- some of the candidates had fail rates of over 50% which should indicate that not only is the BOE not helping candidates with the process, but that the process is flawed.
I recorded my conversation with Mr. Harsman. I suggest you take a listen. Maybe you can hear the smugness. Sorry about the volume disparity. Also- the triple checking of signatures had nothing to do with the reason Mr. Pace was removed from the ballot, it was purely Mr. Harsman playing lord over the little people.