Athens county resident and 2020 candidate for 94th District House Representative Katie O’Neill is still seeking answers on signage that was present in voting booths at five polling locations prior to the Nov. 3 General Election, and present in voting during the event at one location.
On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Athens County Board of Elections heard the results of an investigation into the signage which was displayed at the Alexander polling location throughout portions of election day. The investigation was conducted by Elections Board Director Debbie Quivey, and the Board subsequently issued an apology to O’Neill for the signage’s presence in the Alexander polls.
According to Quivey’s report, the signs were originally created for the Primary Election in March 2020. During that election, O’Neill’s eligibility for candidacy was questioned and was at first thrown off the ballot by the Athens County Elections Board. However, O’Neill met four of the candidacy criteria for running, and only one is needed for candidacy. She has also maintained that the resulting hearings with the Athens County Board of Elections were unfair and “rattled” her due to what she called a “random line of questioning.”
The signs were left up on polling booths at the Alexander polling location, where four precincts were assigned to vote, for an unknown period of time. According to Quivey’s report, four other polling locations also had the signage, but poll workers took the papers down prior to polls opening at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Polling officials affidavits
Jennifer Adams, polling location director at the Wesleyan Church polling location in Nelsonville, noted in her affidavit to the Board for Quivey’s investigation that she helped set up three polling locations — at the Nelsonville Library, the Nelsonville Nazarene Church and the Nelsonville Wesleyan Church — the night of Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
“I removed all of the Katie O’Neill signs from the voting booths,” she wrote. “I also worked as the voting location manager at the Wesleyan Church and there were no Katie O’Neill signs in any of the booths on Election day.”
The Coolville location manager similarly avowed removing signage.
“(W)hen we set up the poling (sic) location at Coolville Elementary School, all of the placards were removed by Beverly Dixon during the set up,” wrote Philip Thomas, the location manager. “I questioned Beverly about them and she informed me that they were installed for the primary election and were to be removed for the general election.”
Statements provided through Quivey’s report by the polling location director at Alexander show a loose timeline where most of the signage was removed at about 9 a.m., but one booth remained marked until mid-afternoon. Quivey told the Election Board members that she confirmed all of the signs had been removed by 2 p.m. at the very latest.
O’Neill said she has finally received some answers to questions submitted by her attorney regarding the events of November 3, answered by Director Quivey, with the final answers provided by the Board’s legal council, Prosecutor Keller Blackburn. Those questions included who made the signs originally, and if it had been approved by the Secretary of State.
O’Neill noted that Quivey’s answer to those questions was that the Secretary of State’s office had requested O’Neill’s name be “removed from election machines,” and did not state that signage telling voters not to vote for her was an appropriate substitution.
“I think that (Quivey) is responsible,” O’Neill said. “Right now, I wanted to know who made the signs — that was Debbie — who instructed her to do so, and I have not seen anyone instruct her to do so. The Secretary of State told her to remove me from election machines, and then she wrote a letter to the other counties (in the 94th district) saying that these signs would be made.”
“So she made them without instruction to do so,” O’Neill concluded.
Two botched elections
O’Neill also discussed the hearings held regarding her candidacy in the Primary Election. She said the questions leveled against her ranged from when she brought her cats to her Athens County apartment to whether she planned to take the Bar exam over the summer, with the first of two hearings lasting for three hours. She said her opponent, Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), was present for those hearings, alongside a private investigator that she claims the representative hired. Edwards has denied knowing the investigator or coming to the hearings with anyone.
Copies of the transcript for the hearings have been repeatedly requested by The Messenger, but no copies have been provided. O’Neill said that in the spring she also requested the hearing’s transcript, recording or other record, but has not received it yet.
Ultimately, O’Neill appealed her case to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled in her favor 6-1. She was reinstated as the Democratic candidate for the 94th District and accepted onto the November ballot at that point.
Many, including Quivey, have maintained that even if the signs had been maliciously left up, the election still would have resulted in an Edwards re-election. Quivey also maintained in her testimony to the Board of Elections that the signs were left up due to human error, and should have been removed. O’Neill has rejected both of these statements, and says it is concerning the signs were present at all.
She has also voiced concerns about the various timelines and uncertainty she’s heard from the board and election officials, while the original voter to bring the issue to O’Neill’s attention has not varied in their timeline.
“According to (Quivey’s) own report, the people at Alexander said the time was unknown when the flyers were removed from the voting booths,” O’Neill said. “But there is a woman who notified me, a voter, and she’s the one that got loud about it at the voting booths at 1:45 p.m.”
O’Neill called the signage illegal, and commended the voter for her vocal outrage.
“According to the voter, the elections officials had told her around 10 or 10:30 that they had notified the Board of Elections — they had seen the signs,” O’Neill said, noting that Quivey’s report said the matter had been brought up around 9 a.m. “I don’t know whose timeline they’re using, but the voter was the only person who’s reported and kept a timeline.”
The erstwhile candidate said Quivey has maintained that 9 a.m. was when the majority of signs at the Alexander polling location were removed. The signed affidavit of the Alexander Polling Director states that “an election official noticed the colorful signs earlier this morning about 9 a.m.”
The statement continues, noting a series of voice messages left at the Elections office and that election officials “began removing flyers (time unknown)from the voting booths. There was one remaining flyer which was not taken down due to a voter being in the voting booth. Each time an election official from both parties went to remove flyers, the booth was occupied.”
“So we are talking about five hours after the signs were officially known,” O’Neill said. “When they should have been known at 6:30 a.m.”
O’Neill noted that she does not believe that the matter was handled correctly, and has been poorly notified of the ongoing hearings, discussions and decisions regarding the signage. She also noted that she believes the Board’s apology to her should have better stated the grievance.
“What Debbie is telling me is this was a volunteer’s problem, it’s their error — and I take great offense to that,” she said. “She is trying to take the good citizens of this county and say its ‘your fault for all of my problems.’ But it is her problem. She made the signs. The signs left the Board of Elections and were distributed to, from my count, five locations.”
“This isn’t human error — a human error is saying I ran for the Congressional District instead of Ohio House in the apology letter,” she continued. “If this was just a human error, believe me, I would have rested my case on Nov. 3.”