GREENVILLE — Former Village of Wayne Lakes Mayor Gary Lee Young’s passing, in June, left some vacancies in the council.
Wayne Lakes Councilman Doug Barger said he went to the council asking for a seat, and has been on council since the meeting after Young’s death.
“Since then, people have encouraged me to run for council, because there are open seats,” he said. “I want a council seat because I am a team player and I know what the village needs. I’ve been there for years, doing all kinds of stuff for Wayne Lakes. I have attended almost every meeting, and I know what is going on. I am a good fit.”
Barger’s petition was one of 10 invalid petitions for the November election. According to Darke County Board of Elections Director Luke Burton, 2013 saw 18 invalid petitions, 2015 had nine invalid petitions, and this year had 10 invalid petitions. According to Burton, 2013 and 2015 years had the highest number of locally filed petitions for trustee, board of education, and council. He said the most common reasons petitions are not certified, are generally not having enough verified signatures, or the circulator statement is left blank. While Barger completed the petition, including more than the proper number of valid signatures, he left out his name in one spot, he said.
“I received a checklist on how to fill out the petition, and I was very careful about filling it out,” Barger said. “But I wasn’t judicious enough and it was my fault – I totally admit it. It would be nice if someone could look it over, but the employees say they are not allowed to help. I don’t know whose rules those are: are they local rules?”
“It is true that we are not allow to “pre-check” petitions,” Burton said. “This is due to a directive which was enacted originally in 2011, and updated in 2015. The directive was put in place because of an issue where a board of elections office, in Ohio, had pre-checked a petition and told the candidate that their petition was okay. When their board went to certify, they found some issues and were not able to certify that person’s petition, resulting in legal action. If a petition is not able to be certified, that person is sent a notification by certified mail, stating which part(s) of the petition were insufficient, blank, or filled out incorrectly. We also include a copy of the petition with the trouble areas highlighted, and I give the filer a phone call to let them know.”
According to Burton, the Darke County Board of Elections provides the “Ohio Candidate’s Requirement Guide,” the Darke County “Policy on Election Petitions” effective as of May 2017, and a checklist that each candidate is to read and sign before turning in a petition. The “Ohio Election Official Manual” from the Ohio Secretary of State says the following:
“No board of elections shall pre-check any petition to determine the petition’s validity and sufficiency before such time as the original petition has been filed, along with the appropriate filing fee, with a board of elections, the Secretary of State’s Office, or other public office as provided by law. While pre-checks may appear to be a public service that potential candidates might rely on to improve their chances of being certified to the ballot, in reality, pre-checks provide a false sense of security for candidates and issue groups.”
Barger said some help should be offered, especially for those running for office the first time.
“I’m not complaining about any wrongdoing by anybody,” he said. “I am sure every petition that was rejected was rejected for appropriate reasons. But they should be a little kinder to these people that don’t run all the time, and allow someone to help us look it over to make sure we didn’t miss something. If they did that, more candidates could be on the ballot. Wayne Lakes Council is made up of good people who really try for the village. Not being on the council won’t depress me; someone else can do it, and I am OK with that. I just wanted to help.”
“If someone wants to run for public office, I commend them for doing so, and want to get them on the ballot,” Burton said. “I want every potential candidate to know if they have questions about the process of getting on the ballot, we are more than happy to help them as much as we legally can. Informing good people who want to run for public office that their petition had to be rejected because of simple errors, is the worst part of my job. It is my goal to have a 100 percent petition verification because of the good information we provide, while I sit as director of this board.”
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