Ohio Supreme Court will not require Greene County to count signatures

On October 4, 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus by L. Stephen Combs to require the Greene County Board of Elections to count the signatures on Combs’ petition and certify his name for the November 5, 2019, election.

On August 6, 2019, Combs submitted his nominating petition. At the bottom of each part-petition, Combs signed the declaration and included in that statement, “I am the circulator of the foregoing petition containing 44 signatures.” On August 19, 2019, the Greene County Board of Elections rejected Combs’s petition, because the circulator statement on each part-petition stated 44 signatures were included, which was the total number on the entire petition, rather than the number of signatures on the individual part-petition. Since the board rejected the petition on this basis, it did not proceed to the verification process of the signatures.

The Ohio Supreme Court stated Combs’ statements at the end of each part-petition were not in accordance with R.C. 2501.38(E)(1). The Court found in R.C 2501.38 (E)(1) b that the word “it” refers to “each petition paper.” The Ohio Supreme Court stated that Combs' argument for “it” to refer to the plural “nominating petitions” is at odds with the rules of grammar. In addition, Combs argued that he complied with the Secretary of State’s Form No. 3-R, and the declaration on that form refers to the full petition, not the number of signatures on the part-petition. However, the Court found Combs’ analysis would not be reasonable in any situation with more than one circulator. If there was more than one circulator, neither could attest to all signatures found on the full petition. The Court concluded that the election law is clear and, therefore, no interpretation is warranted.

Therefore, Combs did not comply with R.C. 2501.38 (E)(1), because he placed the declaration referring to all the signatures placed on the nominating petition as a whole, rather than individually declaring the number of signatures on each part-petition. The Supreme Court denied his writ of mandamus and did not require the Greene County Board of Elections to count the signatures nor to certify his name for the November 5, 2019, ballot.

Election Law