BOE: Half of counted recall signatures are validWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE) has validated 9,435 signatures out of 18,337, or about 53 percent, on Take Back Toledo’s petitions to recall Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, according to Take Back Toledo’s Brian Schwartz. That number was reported about 4:30 p.m. April 14, Schwartz said.
“I am 100-percent confident we’re going to make the number,” he said, referring to the just under 20,000 signatures needed.
The validation process will continue until 20,000 signatures are validated or all signatures have been checked. Howe said the process began April 13, and will probably be completed by April 17, based on the current rate of progress. The petitions were filed on April 9.
“The board of election’s task is to check the petitions to verify the signatures that they are registered voters and that they are indeed … the signature for the person that we have registered,” said Linda Howe, BOE director. “We pull up the actual registration cards on our system; the registration and the address must be same.”
“We couldn’t make them work over the holiday weekend,” she added, “and state law says we have until [April 19]. But that’s a Sunday, and we have until midnight on Monday.”
At issue, however, is language included on the petitions that may or may not adhere to state law, requiring a notice of the offense of falsification by petition workers and signers as a fifth degree felony. David Schulz, a former Toledo City Council candidate, sent e-mail messages to media outlets informing them of a possible discrepancy in the petition language.
Toledo City acting Law Director Adam Loukx is reportedly investigating the allegation, but he could not be reached for comment as of April 14. An unnamed source within the BOE did express, however, that the language probably meets state law requirements because it does inform signers of legal ramifications for falsifying information.
Toledo City Clerk of Council Gerald Dendinger said he will seek the advice of an outside lawyer, Don McTigue of Columbus, to help decide whether the petitions seeking to oust Mayor Carty Finkbeiner are valid.
McTigue was involved in this case, related to a similar issue of another part of 3501.38. He argued that 3501.38 was required in a recall petition with a charter that had similar wording as Toledo has. Dave Schulz, a former Toledo City Council candidate and citizen activist, had written to the Lucas County Board of Elections calling for the invalidation of Take Back Toledo’s mayoral recall petitions.
The validation process will cost Lucas County taxpayers between $10,000 and $15,000, according to Howe, who cited Jeremy Demagall, the deputy director of elections. Workers are paid based on their employment experience with the board, receiving between $8 and $9 per hour.
Unlike petitions initiated by government entities, those submitted by individuals for validation must be paid by the county.
“When there’re levies on the ballot, like the school levy or something, we’re able to charge back all the expenses,” Howe said. “But for citizens putting issues on the ballot, there is no charge back.”
Validating signatures is a regular task for BOE, as any initiative must pass muster with the county before being placed on a ballot. The difficult part, according to Howe, is to budget the board’s expenses in paying for the process. In 2008, the county had to verify signatures for a handful of issues, including a proposed casino in southern Ohio and payday lending restrictions.
Howe called the signature validations “an everyday expense.”
“It’s hard to budget because you don’t know in a year how many issues you’re going to have,” she said. “Last year, I think we had four statewide issues that we had to check petitions. One of them we had 30,000 signatures; I think another we 60,000, so that took a huge amount out of our budget.”