Independent candidate off November ballot

Published 10:17 am Friday, July 9, 2010

And then there were only two. The Lawrence County Board of Elections has rejected the petitions of Jon Ater, the Independent candidate who wanted to run for county auditor this fall.

This means Ater is disqualified to run for auditor or any other office, even as a write-in.

“You can’t file for the same office in the same election or any other office,” Eric Bradshaw, elections board deputy director, said.

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Now it will be County Treasurer Stephen Burcham on the Democratic ticket against County Commissioner Jason Stephens, a Republican, in November.

However, Ater, when informed of the board’s decision by The Tribune, vowed he would fight it.

“I find that unusual at this time of the year,” Ater said. “I really have no comment. This is the first time I have heard this. So here we are in the middle of July, isn’t that unique. …They will do anything to discourage an Independent candidate from running. This is unbelievable … I am kind of stunned. I really don’t have an educated answer. They know I have spent a ton of money for billboards, ads.”

The elections board took its action Thursday evening at its regularly scheduled meeting, voting unanimously.

Ater had submitted on May 3, the day before the primary, petitions bearing the names of 313 signatures.

Only 199 signatures are required by law. However, the board of elections could only certify 189 signatures or 10 fewer than the Chesapeake man required.

Those signing nomination petitions must do so in the same manner as they signed their registration card. Thus, if a voter printed his name on the registration card, he must sign the petition the same way.

Signatures were thrown out for a variety of reasons, including improper signing; spouses signing for spouses, and a signer not being a registered voter.

Ater’s petitions were also thrown out because of conflicting addresses.

One petition bore the address of 95 Private Drive, Chesapeake, while the other 19 had the address of 85 Private Drive, Chesapeake.

Bradshaw said all petitions must have the accurate address of the candidate and must be the same address on all petitions.

“They are the ones who filled out the petitions,” Ater said. “I also live at both addresses.”

Ater filed his petitions on the same day as he was arrested for allegedly driving a Kubota tractor under the influence on State Route 243 in Union Township.

He was arrested and charged with DUI, having an open container and driving left of center.

At the time of the arrest Ater said the incident was “politically motivated” and is fighting the charges in court.

This was Ater’s third attempt at public office, having run for Athens County Commissioner as a Republican and for Lawrence County Recorder as an Independent. Both candidacies were unsuccessful.

Ater had planned to protest this morning at the county fair grounds the Lawrence County Fair Board’s refusal to allow him a political booth at next week’s fair.

However, he said the rejection of his candidacy might preclude that protest.

“I will have to challenge this, of course,” he said. “Somehow I am going to get on that ballot. … I trust the voters. They have had it.”