Board hears petitions protests

By Sam Wildow -

MIAMI COUNTY — Frustration and stress were clear during the Miami County Board of Elections meeting on Friday afternoon when the board heard protests from three people present who had their petitions rejected during their previous August meeting. The board also considered protests from two people who were not present during the meeting but who had submitted letters appealing the decision made about their invalid petitions.

“Having 30 people rejected is a big issue, I think, for the county,” Michael van Haaren, previously running for a seat on the board of education for Bethel schools, said. “Don’t take away the voter’s right to choose.”

“The circulator statements are incomplete in every regard,” Huffman said about van Haaren’s petition.

Van Haaren claimed that the circulator statements are a non-statutory requirement, but he was not able to provide proof of his claim during the meeting. Van Haaren’s protest was considered but also rejected.

Deborah A. Watson, running for fiscal officer of Bethel Township, was previously denied due to insufficient signatures. Watson appeared slightly distressed during her appeal before the board as she presented her case.

“The reason for my rejection was the lack of valid signatures,” Watson said.

Watson explained that after she received her notification from the board’s office stating that her petition had “fatal errors,” she questioned the board’s office about it.

“They stated that they had stopped counting my signatures once they found five that (were) invalid,” Watson.

Watson said she asked to see the signatures, and one of the signatures reportedly had “NGA” or “no good address” written next to it.

Watson said that the office had claimed that the address was incorrect, but when the workers pulled up her address in their system, it was “exactly as she had written it on the form.” The workers also found that this person had lived at that address “for quite some time,” Watson said.

Watson said she was told that her petition was still considered invalid due to other signatures being invalid.

“At that point, I looked at one of the signatures that they made invalid, and it was our very own trustee Gary Biggs, who, himself, has filed a petition, which was not rejected,” Watson said. “So I asked to look at his petition and his signature on his petition, and it seems that his signature on his petition is exactly the same as the signature on my petition.”

Watson said that she was told that the letter “G” on her petition “didn’t look quite the same.”

Watson cited another example of someone whose signature was considered valid on Biggs’ petition but invalid on Watson’s petition.

“You are not validating valid signatures on my petition because they don’t quite look right,” Watson said. “And I’m only one short.”

Watson also claimed that by not accepting the signatures on her petition as valid based on the idea that they do not look correct, the board was essentially accusing her of falsification. The board approved her appeal, and Watson will be on the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election.

The board then heard from Harold Brumfield, whose petition for the Miami East Board of Education was denied due to the statement of candidacy being dated after the signatures were collected. Brumfield claimed that he did have his statement of candidacy filled out while he was collecting signatures, but he had left the date blank due to being unsure of when it was supposed to be dated. He stated that the board of elections office had not given him “reasonable assistance” and that the board did not have to interpret the rules “in such an extreme and punitive manner.”

“If we made mistakes, we made mistakes,” Brumfield said. “You don’t have to be so punitive about things.”

The board approved Brumfield’s appeal.

“We followed our oath, and we followed the law,” Huffman said.

Huffman explained that their job was to “stay neutral.” The board’s office is not allowed to give out advice on how to fill out a petition due to the fact that that is considered legal advice. They also do not want the employees to give out different advice to different people, and they do not want to appear as if they are favoring a certain group of people over another, Huffman said.

The board also considered appeals from Patricia Lynch, previously running for the Tipp City Board of Education, and Gregory Scott Lawson, previously running for the Bethel Board of Education. Their petitions for the ballot were denied due to their circulator statements not being completed. Their appeals were denied.

During the board’s meeting, petitions were also rejected for Cindy Pearson, running for the Ward 2 seat for the Piqua City Commission; Tom O. Merritt, running for Tipp City Council; Jason Tinnerman, running for vice mayor in West Milton; and Scott Alan Fogle, running for West Milton Council. Pearson’s and Tinnerman’s petitions were denied due to insufficient signatures. Merritt’s and Fogle’s petitions were each denied due to the statement of candidacy being dated after the signatures were collected.

By Sam Wildow

Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall

Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall