Sarantou: ‘I only wanted an honest and open review of the facts’Written by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
George Sarantou, Toledo city councilman and candidate for Lucas County Commissioner, filed a Contest of Election Dec. 13 in regard to the outcome of the November commissioner’s race. Sarantou, who was originally declared Lucas County commissioner by 1,376 votes, lost the election to Carol Contrada by 191 votes after provisional ballots were counted.
Based on an initial review of documents from the Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE) by Sarantou, his lawyers and political consultant, Sarantou decided to file a Contest of Election surrounding issues with the provisional ballots.
“Over the past month, I have stressed that I only wanted an honest and open review of the facts surrounding the provisional ballots issue,” Sarantou said.
“A review of the limited information provided shows concerns and inconsistencies regarding how provisional ballots were handled by the Lucas County Board of Elections. Those provisional ballots changed the outcome of the commissioner’s race in the November election,” he said.
Sarantou said he has been encouraged by Democrats and Republicans to question the handling of provisional ballots. Some issues of concern include ballots cast in at a precinct where an individual doesn’t live and incidents where individuals may have voted more than once, said Terry Casey, election consultant for Sarantou.
Additionally, Sarantou takes legal issue with the changing number of provisional ballots as well as the access to public records the BOE has given Sarantou and his campaign.
Casey said the lack of cooperation from the BOE in regards to records does not allow them to have a complete idea of how many questionable provisional ballots there may be.
“We want to make sure this board of elections does it right, does it honest and does it complete. So far we have not been satisfied,” said Casey, who has assisted with recounts in more than 40 Ohio counties and served on the board of elections in Franklin County for 14 years.
Sarantou said he knows when to give up but deserves his day in court.
“When you are in politics, like I’ve been since 1997 when I ran for City Council and lost, you accept the fact you can either win or lose. Having been on the losing end, that’s part of life,” he said. “This is about making sure the provisional ballots were validated in a legal and proper manner.”
The BOE released a statement in response to Sarantou’s filing stating it stands by its “results, process and procedures.”
“During the entire election process, the Board has been nothing but open and accommodating to all the candidates and political parties. There is no evidence that warrants the election results or the recount results to be changed. We have released all information allowed by Ohio law, federal law and directives issued by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office,” the BOE said.
Contrada responded to the filing by releasing a statement that said she is “confident in the election process, including the recount, and believes that all legal votes were properly validated and correctly counted by the Board of Elections.”
Contrada said based on her knowledge of the election process she believes the filing is a waste of taxpayer money as well as prosecutorial and judicial time. She said she is confident the law has been followed and the election results will be verified in court.
“Mr. Sarantou was also satisfied with the election process until he found out he was the loser. He had the opportunity to question the validity of provisional ballots for 10 days following the election while they were being processed, and he chose not to. Instead, he now wants to throw out an entire election because it didn’t go his way,” she said. “That is an insult to every legitimate voter in this county.”
According to Ohio Revised Code, contest of election hearings must proceed quickly, with a hearing scheduled within 30 days and only one additional 30-day extension.