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Close Ohio Legislative Election Won't Be Decided Until Second Half of February

Published on January 9, 2013, by in General.

One Ohio state legislature race is still not decided. After a recount, the Republican incumbent leads by five votes over the Democratic challenger, but the Ohio State Supreme Court has accepted the challenger’s lawsuit, which concerns a few dozen disputed ballots. See this story. The case is O’Farrell v Landis, 2012-2151. The Court’s schedule for all evidence to be gathered puts resolution into the second half of February.

One Response

  1. Jim Riley

    Ohio’s constitution (ยง2.06) provides “Each House shall be judge of the election, returns, and qualifications of its own members.” Its statutes provide that while a justice of the Supreme Court hear an election contest for a multi-county race (the House district in this case is in two counties), that for a contested legislative seat, that the court shall simply turn a transcript of its hearings along with the evidence that is gathered over to the branch of the legislative for which the seat is being contested, “which shall determine the election and qualification of its own members.”

    The Supreme Court (or more accurately the Chief Justice, or a justice appointed by her) has original jurisdiction in multi-county legislative contests. The contest is not trivially frivolous and the Democrat contestor had to put up a $5000 bond, so I doubt that the Chief Justice had any discretion, other than deciding not to hand it off to another justice of the supreme court.

    The election has already been certified by the appropriate election officials (it is this certification that is being contested), and the Republican who was declared winner has taken the oath of office and participated in House votes.

    In the ruling presented in the article, the chief justice declined to interpret 13 ballots that were not counted in the race (in effect the Democrat was attempting to have her make a determination of fact). She declined to do so, and simply ordered that the ballots be delivered to her.

    Reading between the lines, it appears that there is ambiguity as to voter intent with these ballots (eg a ballot where the name of candidates was circled, rather than marked with an ‘X’ could be interpreted as being for the marked candidates; but a ballot where most candidates were marked with an ‘X’, but one candidate was circled. It is impossible to determine why with any certainty what the voter intended by the inconsistent markings.

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