Photo Caption: A map from the Bill of Rights Committee shows the city's jurisdiction for water contamination events.
Two other county boards of elections in Ohio have now voted to send anti-fracking measures to their local voters in November, similar to the proposal that the Athens County Board of Elections would not approve for the ballot.
In the weeks since the Athens County Board of Elections declined to certify an anti-fracking ballot initiative in the city, the attorneys who argued that case have gone on to do so twice more but getting the opposite results.
While the Athens-based Lavelle and Associates successfully convinced the Athens elections board to uphold a protest against the ballot proposal, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has prevailed in two subsequent cases, one in Youngstown and the other in Bowling Green.
Most recently, in Bowling Green, the attempt by Lavelle and Associates to remove an anti-fracking charter amendment from the ballot was rejected by the Wood County Board of Elections.
That protest was filed on behalf of one resident, businessman John Kretzschmar. In both Athens and Youngstown, the protests had been filed by groups of residents.
Attorney John Lavelle, who has represented area landowners interested in leasing their oil and gas rights, reportedly used familiar arguments to the Wood County board, stating that the proposal was administrative not legislative, that the language was too vague, and that the measure would not stand up in court. Lavelle used all of these arguments in the Athens County case as well.
Meanwhile, CELDF's Sean Kelly, who argued in favor of the ballot initiative in Athens and also represented the measure in Youngstown, told the Wood County board that the content of the proposal is outside the board's purview, arguing that their responsibility was only to decide the "sufficiency and validity" of the signatures on the petitions themselves.
In Youngstown last week, a protest asking the Mahoning County elections board to deny certification of a petition by the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee was withdrawn at the last minute.
Lavelle had represented the Mahoning Valley Coalition for Job Growth and Investment that filed the petition.
After the protest was withdrawn, the Mahoning County board voted unanimously to certify the petition, with one member recusing himself from voting.
The Business Journal, a Youngstown area publication, reported that the Youngstown protest was withdrawn as two members of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, David Betras, a Democrat, and Tracey Winbush, a Republican, are members of the group that filed the protest.
Both Betras and Winbush asked voters to reject a similar amendment that failed at the ballot in May. Betras eventually abstained from the recent vote.
Meanwhile, the CELDF has come out with a release alleging a "clandestine, but well-orchestrated attempt by backers of toxin-laden frack drilling and poison injection wells to block citizens from deciding for themselves whether state-permitted poisons will be allowed to be pumped and dumped in their communities."
It cited all three cases, highlighting that the Athens County board's decision was made "without explanation."
CELDF attorney Sean Kelly has sent a letter to the Athens elections board requesting a written, point-by-point explanation for its decision on each of the four subjects Lavelle filed the protest under.
So far, a response to that letter has not been available from the Board of Elections.
County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, who legally represents the board, has said the subject could come up when the board next meets this Wednesday.