Commissioner recall effort delayed by legal wrangling

Disagreements over legality of recall petitions prepared by city of Piqua staff is delaying the circulation of petitions.  Certification of petitions is now unlikely to be completed in time to have the recall voting occur on the Nov. 2, 2010 General Election ballot.

In 2009 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on (former Toledo Mayor) Finkbeiner vs. Lucas County Board of Elections, affirming Finkbeiner’s assertion that state law must also be followed in determining what language is mandatory on recall petitions. Their decision rendered tens of thousands of valid recall petition signatures null and void, allowing “Carty” Finkbeiner (who was facing almost certain recall by voters) to avoid the recall vote altogether. Embedded below is a summarized version of what occurred in that case. Quoted from:

http://www.ballot-access.org/2009/07/28/ohio-recall-petition-invalidated-because-of-missing-sentence/

On July 27, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a recall petition against the Mayor of Toledo is invalid because the petition sheets failed to carry these words: “Whoever Commits Election Falsification is Guilty of a Felony of the 5th Degree.

The Toledo City Charter has provisions for recalls, and does not mention that recall petitions need this sentence. But the state election law does include it. The Court ruled that recall petitions need to follow both state election law and local laws.

The minority on the State Supreme Court would have thrown the case out on procedural grounds, because the Mayor filed his lawsuit directly with the State Supreme Court instead of the lower court. The case is State ex rel Finkbeiner v Lucas Co. Bd. of Elections, 2009-3657. Thanks to Steve Linnabary for this news.

When local residents filed recall affidavits with Ms. Stacy Wall (Piqua City Law Director), details of this Ohio Supreme Court case were also provided to Ms. Wall. Clearly the Ohio Supreme Court has already ruled upon the importance of this ORC mandated verbiage (“WHOEVER COMMITS ELECTION FALSIFICATION IS  GUILTY OF A FELONY OF THE 5TH DEGREE.”  — all capital letters) being included, and yet the city staff did not put this verbiage on any of the petition papers they produced.

Upon the advice of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Election Division, Ms. Wall’s  petitions were taken to the Miami County Board of Elections.  The purpose was to determine as to whether they in an acceptable form for circulation.  Mr. Quillen indicated that he didn’t feel that the current petitions are compliant with ORC requirement and provided many examples of petitions for comparison ; all of them did have the ORC mandated verbiage. He recommended that the petitioners add the missing sentence (themselves) to the petitions to make each petition paper compliant with the ORC mandate.  However, if petitioners were to do so, Ms. Wall has already informed Jim Cruse that she would reject any “altered” petitions upon the return of those petitions to the city clerk.

Ms. Wall has been asked multiple times to either have the city staff add this “missing sentence” to the petitions or allow them to be properly amended by the petitioners. Unfortunately, her stance is that there is nothing that needs to be added to the petitions. Therefore, the petitioners feel that it would be both premature and irresponsible to circulate petitions of which the legality has yet to be fully determined.

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