What is a signature in Dayton, Ohio?

Tomorrow, at 11a.m.,  the Montgomery County Board of Elections- comprised of Democrats and Republicans, will eliminate the opportunity for the Citizens of Dayton to have a primary election for Dayton City Commission. They will clear 4 candidates’ petitions, having found almost 20% of my signatures invalid.

They’ll do it, by applying the Ohio Revised Code to a process required by the Dayton City Charter- a legally obsolete set of laws, written up by businessmen in 1913 to run the city the way they wanted it run.

The idea of  “Home Rule”- where cities can make their own laws- and enforce them, even if in conflict with state and federal laws is effectively pretty much over- when the residency rules were tossed. However, the interesting part about our petitioning process- is that the claim is made that the city laws must be enforced by organizations not spelled out in the charter- the Board of Elections which is governed by Ohio Revised Code and by the Secretary of State.

Because the Charter is only 41 pages or so- the standard that is used is if it isn’t spelled out in the Charter- ORC steps in. There are only two ways the charter is changed- if 3 members of the commission vote to put a change on the ballot- or 10% of the registered voters turn in a petition to request a change. The standard for recalling commissioners is higher- 25% of the registered voters.

In ORC, the standards are much lower- and are not based on a percentage of registered voters- but, on a percentage of the number of registered voters casting ballots in the last gubernatorial election.

ORC requires 50 signatures to get on the ballot. That’s what you need to be a county commissioner- and it’s all you need to run for Congress as a Democrat or Republican (the standard for independents is much higher for Congress).

If  the Charter is such a stickler about signatures- including the 500 standard to run- it makes me wonder if every elector’s signature that I collected should be counted as three.

The charter also clearly specifies (sec 161) “The Commission shall fix by ordinance the salary or compensation of the heads of departments, its own employees” – and to pass an ordinance requires 3 votes (Sec 41) and 4 votes as an Emergency (sec. 42)-yet, Mayor Rhine McLin singlehandedly gave the City Manager a retroactive raise- and raises to department heads in her final year in office. How come her signature counts for three and mine do not?

I am not new to the process of getting 500 signatures. When I ran in 1993 for Mayor against Clay Dixon- I turned in just over 500- without using voter registration lists and made it on the ballot (as did 4 other challengers including eventual winner Mike Turner). I again- without voter lists, did the same to run in the special election that ran concurrent with the mayoral final- to fill the vacated seat of Mark Henry. It too, was a four-way race with Dean Lovelace, Mary Sue Kessler and Judy Orick on the ballot with me- which Dean won by the slimmest of margins.

Abner Orick was in charge of the Board of Elections back then- and obviously things changed, when my petitions were rejected 2 more times- before I got smart and started using the voter rolls.

However- thanks to new federal law- the City of Dayton currently carries over 100,000 registered voters on the rolls. I can tell you from using those rolls in my process of getting signatures- that they are grossly out of date and incorrect- thereby wasting my time by having me knock on doors that no longer have the voters in them. I also have no way of verifying that the voter is signing a signature that is acceptable to the board of elections- since apparently nearly 20% of my signatures were found to be unacceptable.

[UPDATE] 7:30 PM – total “registered voters” in Dayton: 100,792 actual voters last Gubernatorial election: 37,915 [End UPDATE]

Let’s take a look at what this means, in order to recall a politician in Dayton (sec. 13). To collect 25% of the “registered voters” would mean 25,000 signatures- plus, if working with the voter rolls provided by the Board of Elections- an extra 20%- or 30,000 signatures- would be close to, or possibly exceed, the total number of Dayton voters who voted in the last presidential election.

In other words- it’s impossible to recall our elected officials, and nearly impossible to put an issue on the ballot- because 12,000 voters signatures would be impossible to attain. ORC calls for 15% of the last municipal election.

It is for this reason, I plan on asking for immediate injunctive relief in the courts tomorrow, to have the Charter specifications when it comes to signatures and petitions tossed aside and that the city operate under the Ohio Revised Code, a standard that can be met, and does give the citizens the powers guaranteed by the First Amendment, to petition government.

The rules we have that almost guarantee city commissioner for life status to incumbents, and the inability to change the laws by petition must be discarded, and the people of Dayton must have the ability to choose their candidates in a primary election, without the interference of partisan boards of election or obsolete laws created over a century ago.

We have not had a primary in 18 years. That should be proof enough that the process and the application of two different sets of laws, have done nothing but limit ballot access and our rights to free elections.

If the ORC is followed, there will be at least 7 candidates on the ballot- since a woman turned in under 300 signatures- because she had collected them- and thought the citizens voices should still be heard and recorded.

Law should not be an ala carte process for elected and appointed officials to select what best serves their purposes- it should be an absolute standard that is in the best interest of the people

I hope I have the support of the people in this.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! If you wish to support this blog and independent journalism in Dayton, consider donating. All of the effort that goes into writing posts and creating videos comes directly out of my pocket, so any amount helps!

Leave a Reply

6 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
6 Comment authors
GaryBryanCharlesDavid EsratiBruce Kettelle Recent comment authors
Notify of
Mike McDermott

Sorry to hear you are having so much trouble getting into the political process. As you have laid out, it is quite impossible to believe that there is any ability for the people to have their voice heard. Keep us apprised of your legal progress on this. It is truly disturbing to see how this sausage is made.

Bruce Kettelle
Bruce Kettelle

David, I beleive your time would be better spent reviewing and challenging the rejected signatures. The suit you suggest above does not sound very winnable and will likely be dismissed rather quickly.

It is hard to beleive that all 110 hard sought signatures would be invalid.


It is very sad, the city is truly broken with the help of the political parties and the board of elections. Many have commented on why the director and deputy director get paid 100k+ every year to work a 7 hour day while the rest of us have to work 8 but they get paid to keep the political machines going. They purposely hire and give gravy jobs to drug offenders, rapists, and racists because no one else will hire them and they will keep their mouths shut in exchange for not being fired. That’s how they get away with stealing voting machines from Diebold and covering up disenfranchising voters.

It’s so sad that the public has no idea that this stuff goes on. If they knew what went on at the board of elections they would not put up with it. We can thank the wonderful local media we have that does nothing to stop it. Maybe Esrati should set up a web site that will help concerned citizens voice their knowledge of the political corruption that just keeps going and going in this city. Hard to believe the DDN can’t even do a story about any of this.


I would have loved to sign your petition, but I sadly don’t currently live in Dayton.  (I’m in the suburbs, looking to move into the city…)

While there is no doubt in my mind that we are probaly on differing ends of the political spectrum, we would share some very important common ground.  That ground is that government needs to be open and accessible to the people, the people need to have a choice, and having an opportunity for that choice should not be made unreachable by those currently in power. It’s troubling that people don’t even recognize the seriousness of what is being taken away from them with such restrictive requirements.

Keep up the good work, and don’t stop trying.


I wonder how Bootsie Neal won all those years!  Guess one must have a strange name like her, or like Whoopi!
And of course, the gift of gab!  Dick Zimmer must be turning in his grave, but he can’t do anything now I’m afraid, just remembering his work will help though!