Ferrara v. Trumbull County Board of Elections
On September 14, 2021, the Ohio Supreme Court found that the Trumbull County Board of Elections erred in rejecting a part-petition submitted by Mark Ferrara to appear on the ballot as a candidate for township trustee.
The Board of Elections reviewed Ferrara’s candidate part-petitions to appear on the ballot as a township trustee, and found the first part-petition contained 16 valid signatures. The Board of Elections then reviewed the second part-petition to determine if Ferrara collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot. The second part-petition had 17 signatures, but the circulator incorrectly stated the part-petition contained 16 signatures. Based on R.C. 3501.38 and the Secretary of State’s guidance, the Board of Elections tossed out the entire second part-petition because the circulator undercounted and incorrectly indicated the number of signatures on the part-petition. Therefore, Ferrara did not have the required 25 signatures to appear on the ballot as a candidate for township trustee. Ferrara sought a writ of mandamus ordering the Board of Elections to certify his name to the ballot.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the entire part-petition should not be invalidated simply because the circulator statement makes a minor, inadvertent mistake in recording the count of signatures. The court found there is no requirement in R.C. 3501.38 for the full part-petition to be invalidated for such a mistake, and the signature count is excluded from the circulator’s oath because R.C. 3501.38 excludes a circulator’s indication of the number of signatures from its oath requirement. As a result, the court ordered the Board of Elections to review the validity of the signatures on the second part-petition to determine if Ferrara has sufficient signatures to meet the threshold to appear on the ballot. If so, the Board of Elections is directed to place Ferrara on the ballot. For more, read the full opinion.