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Status of three write-in candidates hangs in limbo

IRONTON — Three hopefuls, who filed as write-in candidates after the Lawrence County Board of Elections disallowed their initial petitions, might have to sit on the sidelines this election year.

Vic Hopper, Ralph “Butch” Huff and Randy Mullins, all of whom filed as write-in candidates when their nominating petitions were rejected on Aug. 21, are hanging in limbo after being informed by elections officials of a recent state law that prohibits them from running this November.

At issue is a 2006 amendment slipped in the Ohio Revised Code that prohibits potential candidates whose nominating petitions are disallowed by a county board of elections from running as write-in candidates in the same election year for the seat they were disallowed from.

The law was put into effect after current U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson withstood two challengers as a write-in candidate in the 2006 Democratic primary to fill the open Sixth District Congressional seat vacated by Gov. Ted Strickland.

Wilson, whose initial nominating petition was disallowed by the Columbiana County Board of Elections, launched a massive “write-in” effort that was eventually successful in capturing the Democratic primary. The amendment to the Ohio Revised Code barring such a move in future Ohio elections was enacted the same day as Wilson’s primary win on May 2, 2006.

The law affects all elections in the state from congressional and gubernatorial to elections for townships trustees, board of educations and city council.

While candidates whose petitions are disallowed can not run as write-ins for the seat they originally filed for, the law does allow them to run as write-ins in the same election year for another office.

That was not the case in this instance as all three filed to file as write-ins for the seats they originally sought.

What all three are hoping for is a ruling that is expected to come down this month from the Ohio Supreme Court that challenges that amendment.

With that, election officials have decided to hold onto each of the three’s write-in intentions until the Lawrence County Board of Elections next meets on Sept. 28.

A decision from the high court is expected before then.

Should the Supreme Count overturn the law or it is ruled unconstitutional, the board could be inclined to accept all three write-in petitions. If the law is upheld, then all three most likely will not to be certified.

Board of Elections Director Cathy Overbeck said the technicality of the amendment came to light just this week as board of election offices throughout the state started contacting each other and the Ohio Secretary of State with questions and reminders regarding the new law and the case before the Ohio Supreme Court.

Overbeck added this was first time her office had come across the issue of a disallowed candidate filing as a write-in for the same post since the amendment was added to state election laws three years ago.

Hopper, an incumbent seeking another term as Hamilton Township Trustee, had his nominating petition disallowed by elections officials for submitting a photocopied petition with a photocopied signature while Huff’s petition was disallowed for not having enough valid signatures. Huff was running for re-election to Ironton City Council.

Huff said he decided to file anyway “to see what happens.”

Mullins, a candidate for Elizabeth Township Trustee, had his nominating petition rejected after board officials ruled he had submitted a petition with a questionable signature that voided the entire form.

Two potential candidates, who did not submit nominating petitions, did present the necessary paperwork with the intention of running as write-ins for the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

Scott Taylor filed as a write-in candidate for the Chesapeake Village Council while Lawrence Hysell submitted his paperwork as a write-in candidate for Perry Township Trustee.

Write-in candidates are not required to solicit or submit signature petitions; however their name does not appear on the physical ballot and instead must be written in by voters.

The Lawrence County Board of Elections is scheduled to certify write-in candidates on Monday, Sept. 28 at 4 p.m.