YOUNGSTOWN Board questions signing of petitions

The nominating petitions of 56 precinct committee candidates, mostly Mark Hanni Republicans, were tossed out.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Saying the handwriting in the signatures on four petitions for Republican precinct committee positions is the same, Mahoning County Board of Elections directors will ask the county prosecutor to investigate potential fraud.
The elections board threw out 56 nominating petitions today for precinct committee candidates -- 42 Republican and 14 Democratic.
The Democratic petitions were tossed for routine problems such as not enough valid signatures, the candidates failed to sign the documents or wrote the incorrect date of the election on the form.
Republican petitions: Twenty-one of the Republican petitions were disqualified because they voted in Democratic primaries during the past two years, which makes them ineligible under state law to run for Republican precinct committee seats.
Eight were disqualified because they listed the wrong precinct or wrong address on their petitions.
Thirteen were disqualified because the signatures on the petitions did not match the signatures on their voter registration forms on file at the board of elections.
Four of those -- Jason D. Lariccia of Boardman, Jeffrey A. Mudrinich of Struthers, Paul Guerrieri of Youngstown, and his son, Paul J. Guerrieri of Boardman -- had the same handwriting in the signature, according to board members, who referred the matter to the county prosecutor.
"They all four appeared to be similar," said board Chairman Mark Munroe.
Hanni's response: Mark Hanni, who is running for Mahoning GOP chairman against Clarence Smith, an elections board member, said most of the 42 Republican disqualifications were his candidates. Hanni had about 300 candidates running for precinct committee seats in the May 7 primary.
The four petitions turned over to the county prosecutor were among Hanni's candidates. Hanni said he personally witnessed the Guerrieris sign their nominating petitions. Also, Guerrieri of Youngstown said he signed his own petition, and saw his son do the same.
Hanni questioned why so many Republican petitions were thrown out and only a handful of Democratic ones were tossed.
"Also, I flagged a few on the Republican side [who support Smith] and I am hiring a handwriting expert to review them," Hanni said. "They missed a number of their people's petitions. There were some blatant violations that they didn't address. It's voter fraud if you miss yours."
Those removed from the ballot can challenge the board's decision.
The board also turned over to the prosecutor the case of James Cross of Youngstown, a 61-year-old man who voted twice in the November 2000 general election.
The only countywide candidate to be kicked off the ballot was county Coroner David Kennedy, who was running for state central Democratic committeeman. Kennedy did not have enough valid signatures on that petition nor one for his candidacy as a precinct committee member in Canfield Township. The board disqualified his candidacy for the precinct post, too.
The board of elections also voted to remove liquor options from the May 7 ballot because of problems with petitions. Those removed were for the Chalet Premier II on Boardman Canfield Road, Boardman; Frattarolis on Main Street, New Middletown; Sheetz on Struthers-Liberty Road, Coitsville; Four Wheels on South Avenue, Boardman; the Army/Navy Post on South Avenue, Youngstown; and Quick Mart on McGuffey Road, Youngstown.

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