UPDATE Thursday, July 18:
Athens City Council member Patrick McGee filed a letter with the Athens County Board of Elections today contesting the board's decision to decline to certify his re-election petition to go on the ballot this November.
The letter includes signed affidavits from seven Athens residents who had signed McGee's petition in a printed style, and who the Board of Elections had said had signed his petition in a manner that did not match their voter registration records (you can read more about that issue below).
The affidavits include their printed and cursive signatures and affirmations that they are in fact registered voters in the city of Athens.
McGee noted in his letter that a 2015 Ohio Supreme Court case (Crowl v. Delaware Board of Elections) supports his argument that not all petition signers need to have signed the petition in cursive or in a manner otherwise exactly similar to the person's voter-registration records.
"(Ohio law) R.C.3501.11(k) – to which we accord great deference – obliges the boards (of election) to confirm the authenticity of the signatures, but it does not impose on them the responsibility to enforce R.C.3501.011 by policing petition signatures for non-conforming legal marks," the Supreme Court decision reads, as cited by McGee in his letter.
McGee asked the BOE to allow the additional seven signatures to validate his petition to be on the November ballot.
Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey confirmed Thursday afternoon that she and the Elections Board members have received the letter. She said the BOE has provided the letter to Assistant County Prosecutor Zach Saunders and said that they will await his decision on their next step.
The original article from 7/17/19 continues below.
Athens City Council member Patrick McGee failed to submit enough valid signatures on his petition to run for re-election this year, and consequently will not appear on the ballot in November, Athens County’s Board of Elections director said Wednesday.
McGee – who was running as an independent for a third term for an at-large Athens City Council seat – filed 103 signatures with his petition to be placed on the ballot, but only 70 of those signatures were valid, Athens County BOE Director Debbie Quivey said Wednesday. McGee would have needed 77 valid signatures to get on the ballot.
McGee, when reached by The NEWS Wednesday morning, said he planned to talk to Board of Elections officials directly about the signatures because he felt that each of the signatures was valid.
“Right now I’m not quite ready to face retirement,” he said.
The NEWS arrived at the Board of Elections while McGee was speaking with Quivey about the issue Wednesday just before noon. He told Quivey he thought she was making a “big mistake” in determining that some of the signatures were not valid.
Quivey said prior to that meeting that the deadline for boards of election in Ohio to certify independent candidates’ petitions for election in partisan races is July 15. The Athens County BOE met on July 10 to certify those petitions, and McGee’s petition failed because it didn’t have enough valid signatures for several different reasons (outlined below). Quivey asserted that there’s no way now for McGee to get on the November ballot this year because once the board makes a decision on the certification of a petition, it cannot change that determination.
“Once the board acts on a petition, there’s nothing you can do about it,” she said.
Quivey added that this deadline is different from the Aug. 7 deadline for candidates in all non-partisan elections to file their petitions to be on the November general election ballot. That includes such races as school boards, township trustees and Nelsonville city offices.
Quivey said the main reason why McGee’s petition failed was that 22 signatures were printed, instead of written in the cursive style of those individuals' regular signatures.
She cited a part of the Ohio election candidates handbook reading that signatures for petitions must be an “original signature of an elector,” requiring a person's “written, cursive-style legal mark written in that person’s own hand unless the elector does not use a cursive-style mark during the course of his or her regular business or legal affairs.” (This means the signatures should match, but doesn't mean cursive is required. If your regular signature, the one on the voter registration form, is printed and not cursive, that's the one the petition signature will be compared to.)
Quivey said that the signatures in question did not match the petition signers’ signatures on file with voter registration documents at the Board of Elections (which were written in cursive, not in print). That made them invalid.
Quivey said this check is necessary to cut down on the potential for voter fraud.
However, McGee questioned how the Board of Elections could know if the petition signers typically used a cursive-style signature during the “course of his or her regular business or legal affairs.” He was adamant that every single one of the printed signatures was the signature of a valid elector.
“I think you’re all making a big mistake on that by saying that, especially when you know that there’s no fraud involved,” McGee said.
Quivey said she’s just following what the Ohio Revised Code says about petitions, though McGee argued that the law is not clear on this matter.
McGee said he plans to file an appeal of the decision. Quivey and Deputy Director Penny Brooks asked him to write a letter of appeal to members of the BOE.
“…We have a situation where 22 voters’ signatures which were printed are being tossed out,” McGee told The NEWS after the interaction with Quivey and Brooks. “Even though it’s clear they live at the address and are registered voters at those addresses.”
McGee added that he’s trying to continue to run for election mostly “for the citizens rather than myself,” noting that he could simply retire right now.
“I think there are some really important issues coming up this next term,” McGee said. “There’s (discussions about) a new fire department, all the work on Stimson Avenue; there’s these bloody trash cans on Court Street that they pay $50,000 a year to rent. There’s a lot of wasteful spending of taxpayer money that people need to be aware of.”
– Athens NEWS reporting intern Cole Behrens contributed to this story.