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3 candidates disqualified because of petition errors



Published: Wed, June 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The county is looking at litigation against an election software provider.

WARREN -- The Trumbull County Board of Elections tossed three independent candidates off the November general election ballot after finding errors in their petitions.

They were candidates for: Girard 1st Ward: Steve Zuppo, 921 North Ave.; Niles treasurer: Paul M. Davis, 44 Hartzell Ave.; and Lordstown council: Bill Catlin, 6203 Tod Ave. S.W.

Davis needed 65 valid signatures on his petition for candidacy. However, he had only 49 because one page of his petition had no circulator identification number, and another page was not signed by the candidate.

Zuppo did not complete any of his circulator statements.

Catlin needed 25 valid signatures. However, because the candidate did not sign one of his pages, he had only 20.

All of these problems do not meet Ohio Secretary of State guidelines.

"I can say there were 20 people who filed petitions that did it right. That's a large number of independents for this type of election year," said Kelly Pallante, elections director.

Voted out

The board also decided Tuesday to pursue litigation against a vendor of voter registration software.

Diverse Integrated Systems Inc. of Modesto, Calif., as of June 2 is not allowed by the state to do business in Ohio.

All counties must link up with the secretary of state's office in order to be in compliance with the Helping America Vote Act.

D.I.S. was hired by Trumbull County last year to make the county's voter registration database link to the state.

The company was paid $16,000 to provide that "bridge" service. "The software didn't work -- not in our county, at least," Pallante said.

"We have to consider what kind of damages we might sue for," said James Saker, an assistant county prosecutor advising the elections board.

In March, the board voted to not pay the annual maintenance fee to D.I.S. for not providing adequate service. The maintenance agreement is $6,800.

In the last two years, any problems that were encountered with the software programs were corrected by their own staff with no assistance from D.I.S., local officials have said.

Pursuing new vendors

The board will put together a new bid package and hopes to open bids by Aug. 2, awarding a contract to the lowest and best bidder. The "bridge" to the state must be in place by December's end.

There's a larger problem, however. About a decade ago the county bought its voter registration system from D.I.S.

Because D.I.S. is under the state edict, any other vendors who bid to supply counties with the "bridge" software won't be able to interface with the current D.I.S. voter registration system -- probably also leading to its replacement.

The county did not assign a monetary value to the lawsuit it will file in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.




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