Athens City Councilman Patrick McGee will be on the November ballot, the Athens County Board of Elections decided Monday.
McGee, an independent, had filed a nominating petition to run for re-election, but last month the board voted not to put him on the ballot because it was determined his petition did not contain enough valid signatures.
His petition had 103 signatures, well above the 77 needed. However, the board determined only 70 of those 77 to be eligible. In many cases, signatures did not match those on their voter registrations, mainly because the petition was signed with block printing and their registrations had cursive signatures.
McGee subsequently asked for a hearing and the board requested a legal opinion, with County Assistant Prosecutor Zach Saunders telling them that based Ohio law and directives from the Ohio secretary of state the board acted properly. However, based on Ohio Supreme Court decisions, McGee could present additional evidence and the board had the option of having a reconsideration hearing, Saunders added.
That hearing was held Monday.
Besides Saunders, another lawyer said the board had acted properly last month — McGee himself. He is an attorney.
“What you did was exactly right, I don’t challenge that,” McGee said. “You had the absolute right to say this doesn’t match if it doesn’t match, because that’s what the law is.”
When he asked for the hearing, however, he also cited the Ohio Supreme Court and presented seven affidavits from people with disallowed signatures who attested that they had in fact signed the petition. (He later filed an eighth affidavit.) At the hearing, McGee said he personally knows those signers and gathered their signatures on the petition.
Based on the affidavit and McGee saying he knew the signers, the board voted unanimously to certify McGee for the general election ballot.
“I think, you know, bizarrely under the case law we are dealing with, this process is working the way it is supposed to,” board member John Haseley said at the start of the hearing.
Haseley was referring to the board initially determining there were not enough valid signatures and then McGee being able to request a hearing and present additional evidence.
But state officials could make some changes that could help prevent problems, Haseley indicated at the end of the meeting, suggesting that the board put together some proposals and have County Deputy Elections Director Penny Brooks present them to the legislative committee of the Ohio Association of Elected Officials. Brooks is a member of that state committee, and she suggested the proposals also be presented to the secretary of state.
One idea that Haseley, other board members and County Elections Director Debby Quivey mentioned would be to change the nominating petitions so that signers both block-print their names and sign in cursive.
“That way there would be no question,” said board member Ken Ryan.
Ryan later pointed out that, when signing petitions, people might not even remember how they originally signed their voter registrations.
During the meeting, board member Aundrea Carpenter-Colvin indicated she was concerned that the board was being asked to certify McGee to the ballot after the July 15 deadline for certifying candidates for the ballot.
“So what do we do with the next petition that comes in,” she asked, “does everybody get a pass on the deadline?”
McGee didn’t find out he was excluded from the ballot until after the deadline when told by a Messenger reporter.
Board Chairwoman Kate McGuckin had asked if it was McGee’s responsibility to check to see if he had been certified for the ballot and if he’d been given that information. Elections Director Debby Quivey responded that it was his responsibility and she assumed it was told to him. McGee said he didn’t recall.
Haseley said it would be helpful if the state legislature clarified how long a would-be candidate has to challenge being excluded from the ballot.