Federal Election Commission confirms three new Commissioners; Elects Chair and Vice Chair

Shana M. Broussard, Sean J. Cooksey and Allen Dickerson were sworn in as members of the Federal Election Commission, Friday, December 18, after having been nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate on December 9. On Tuesday, December 22, Broussard was elected by the Commission to serve as Chair, while Dickerson was elected as Vice Chair. The Federal Election Commission now has quorum to conduct business. The Commission lacked quorum for most of 2020. Read the press release.

Election Law, General News

2020 general election update

On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, Ohioans, like the rest of the country, cast ballots in the 2020 general election. Many counties in Ohio and around the country reported record-breaking early voter turnout. Approximately 3.4 million Ohioans voted early by mail and in-person, and an estimated 311,519 absentee and provisional ballots remain outstanding. This early vote played a role in the way in which Ohio was called by most media outlets and continues to delay the results of several key Electoral College states.

Here is Bricker & Eckler’s overview of the preliminary 2020 General Election results and details on races of particular interest.

Election Law

Did you receive the wrong absentee ballot? Here’s what you should do

The Franklin County Board of Elections announced that 49,669 voters in the county received the wrong absentee ballots. Election officials are saying that a setting on the machine that stuffs absentee ballots into mailing envelopes was mistakenly changed. The Board of Elections is still investigating the incident, but officials believe the mistake was inadvertent. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose directed the Board of Elections to mail correct ballots to voters with a letter explaining the error. Franklin County’s Elections Director Ed Leonard said new ballots will be mailed out within three days. The County Board of Elections also stated a list of affected voters will be posted on their website. For more, read the full article

Election Law

2020 Ohio Primary Election: Results and summary

Ohio’s primary election cycle concluded on April 28, 2020. Here are election results for the U.S. President, U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio Supreme Court, and key Ohio Senate and Ohio House races.  Read more >>

Election Law, General News

Governor DeWine seeks to postpone primary election to June

March 17, 2020 Update: Polls will be closed March 17, 2020. Governor DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton have executed an order closing all poll locations due to the extreme health risk of COVID-19. As developments occur, we will have updates available. 

March 16, 2020 Update: Franklin County Judge Frye has rejected Governor DeWine's request to move the election to June 2, 2020. The primary will be held on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 as previously scheduled. 

During Governor DeWine’s March 16, 2020, COVID-19 press briefing, Ohio officials announced the difficult decision to postpone the state’s Primary Election, scheduled for March 17, to June 2, 2020. Governor DeWine noted that he does not have the authority to extend the election, so an emergency lawsuit will be filed seeking postponement of the election. The governor also noted that he could not urge people to stay at home while at the same time urge people to exercise their right to vote. Therefore, delaying the election ensures that Ohioans will be able to cast a ballot but will also help reduce the risk of further infection. Joining Governor DeWine at the press conference, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose made clear that health and safety were non-negotiable. Secretary LaRose said that absentee voting by mail will continue. Votes previously cast through early voting will remain in storage and will get counted on June 2. As developments occur, we will have more information and updates available on our COVID-19 Resource Center.

Election Law, General News

COVID-19 may spur poll location changes for March 17 primary

The Ohio Secretary of State is taking coronavirus (COVID-19) related precautions for the upcoming March 17 primary election. Polling locations, particularly those that house senior citizens or populations susceptible to the virus, may be relocated. The Secretary and Boards of Elections are also encouraging early voting, both in person or by mail.

To find your polling location and for the latest election information, visit the Ohio Secretary of State’s website dedicated for updates with respect to COVID-19 and this year’s Primary Election in Ohio.

Election Law, General News

Federal judge blocks activist group’s plans to infiltrate opponents’ campaigns

A federal judge denied a preliminary injunction sought by Project Veritas “challenging Ohio’s prohibition against individuals going undercover on political campaigns,” The Columbus Dispatch reports. Project Veritas filed a lawsuit in July 2019 in U.S. District Court “arguing that state law violates its First Amendment rights,” comparing its “tactics of going undercover to record officeholders” and others to investigative journalism, the article reports. The group asked the court to “prohibit the Ohio Elections Commission from hearing complaints that it violated state law” after the Commission heard a case against the group, which took undercover recordings in an office for the combined 2016 campaign of U.S. Senate candidate former Gov. Ted Strickland and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Judge Edmund A. Sargus ruled against the request for a preliminary injunction. For more, read the full article.

Election Law

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

Ohio Supreme Court rules Law be placed on November ballot

On September 16, 2019, the Ohio Supreme Court found that the Trumbull County Board of Elections abused its discretion when it removed Randy Law from the ballot as an independent candidate for Mayor of Warren and ordered the board to recertify Law’s candidacy to the November ballot.

The board considered a protest against Law’s candidacy that alleged that, because Law was affiliated with the Republican Party, he could not run as an independent candidate. A majority of the board determined Law’s disaffiliation efforts from the Republican Party were not in good faith, because Law could not provide a compelling reason for disaffiliation and several pieces of evidence show Law’s statement of nonaffiliation was not made in good faith.

However, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a different standard of review should apply. The Court found that affirmative action of disaffiliation was not required. Rather, a candidate need only provide an accurate statement of disaffiliation in good faith. The Court ruled that the protestor maintains the burden of proof and must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that a candidate’s disaffiliation was made in bad faith. Therefore, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that the board’s standard of review demanded more of Law than necessary. Additionally, the Court found that several pieces of evidence, including a resignation letter, newspaper article, designation of treasurer form and extensive prior Republican Party history were not probative to show bad faith. As a result, Law’s candidacy will be recertified, and Law will be placed on the ballot in November. 

Election Law

Alleged campaign account fraud illustrates need for election law overhaul

An investigation into $120,000 missing from the campaign account of U.S. Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) highlights a loophole in the federal campaign finance system, according to a recent editorial in The Toledo Blade. The main focus of the investigation is James Schwartz, Jr., the son of Chabot’s longtime campaign treasurer of record, James Schwartz, Sr. According to the article, “the elder Mr. Schwartz was not aware he continued to be identified as Mr. Chabot’s campaign treasurer,” although he has been listed on Chabot’s campaign finance reports since 2011. This implies that no member of Chabot’s campaign staff “has conducted a serious conversation” about his campaign account with its treasurer for eight years.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose “noted that this occurred through a loophole in the federal campaign finance system” and said that Ohio is “vulnerable to the same possible fraud.” LaRose has proposed a change to ensure campaign treasurers have reviewed and approved campaign finance reports. State Representative George Lang is expected to introduce legislation that would require a notary to verify a campaign treasurer’s signature.

Election Law
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