The Second District Court of Appeals heard testimony Thursday from witnesses including would-be Dayton City Commission candidate William Pace and the Montgomery County Board of Elections about whether Pace should be allowed onto the ballot.
The Board of Elections ruled March 14 that Pace did not qualify to run for Dayton City Commission on the May 7 ballot because of a problem with his acceptance of candidacy — basically a signature — which had to be filed by March 13, according to Dayton’s city charter.
Steve Harsman, deputy director of the BOE, told the Dayton Daily News earlier this month that his office received the signed acceptance from Pace via a fax, time-stamped 7:38 p.m. March 13. Pace had learned at 5:45 p.m. that he had not signed the statement on his previously filed petitions. Pace said Thursday he raced down March 13 to add his signature but that doors were locked at the county administration building.
The BOE met the morning of March 14, and Harsman said the body asked for a legal opinion from the city of Dayton’s law director, John Danish. Harsman had said that the BOE had not accepted faxed or e-mailed signatures in the past.
Danish said Pace’s fax was not sufficient.
“Our charter requires a candidate to file an acceptance of the candidacy,” Danish said. “And the word ‘filing,’ I believe under court cases, means physical delivery to a government office, and that a facsimile does not qualify.”
Pace’s attorney, C. Ralph Wilcoxson, questioned BOE Director Betty Smith on Thursday about why she didn’t match Pace’s faxed signature against those on his petitions and she said it was because it was not an original signature in ink. She also said a 2011 Ohio Secretary of State directive prohibits board of elections from pre-checking forms to ensure they satisfy the requirements of law.
Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office civil attorneys John A. Cumming and Maureen Yuhas argued that Pace didn’t follow the law and making exceptions for candidates could lead to more risk of abuse and favoritism.
The three-judge panel of Judges Jeffrey Froelich, Mike Fain and Jeffrey Welbaum said they would deliberate and have a decision by April 8.
Pending Pace’s case, five people will be on the ballot for the two Dayton city commission seats — David Esrati, David K. Greer, Joseph Lutz, Jeffrey Mims and Joey Williams — with four advancing to November’s ballot.