Liquor option disqualified for Hubbard establishment
The board voted 2-2, defeating a proposal to reduce voting precincts.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Trumbull County election officials say they are familiar with the routine for investigating possible election falsification, having spent several days looking into the second case since the spring.
The board of elections ruled Tuesday that the liquor option for Hubbard Gas & amp; Mini Mart, 175 Youngstown-Hubbard Road, Hubbard, could not go on the November ballot because too few valid signatures had been gathered on petitions.
Kelly Pallante, elections director, said she and deputy director Rokey Suleman investigated after discovering that some petition signatures didn't match signatures the board has on file.
They talked to Mike Singh of Poland, store manager, whose name was on petitions as the circulator -- and Singh acknowledged he did not witness all of the signatures, Pallante said.
When Pallante and Suleman contacted two of the people whose names appeared on the petitions, they said they had not signed them, Pallante said. That invalidated two pages of petitions totaling 34 signatures and took the number of valid signatures down to 90. The minimum number required was 93, Pallante said.
Board member Craig Bonar asked that the matter be referred to Jim Saker, the assistant county prosecutor who advises the elections board.
Contacted at the store, Singh said an employee who had circulated the petitions died Aug. 21, four days before the deadline to turn them in. "I signed because someone had to sign it," he said. "I didn't look at it."
Saker said election falsification is a felony punishable by six to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. In the area where the petition circulator signs, it states that he or she witnessed all of the signatures.
When Saker's investigation is complete, the next step would be to turn the matter over to the criminal division of the prosecutor's office for possible prosecution, Saker said.
Saker last followed those steps when the elections board learned that some circulators of petitions for former congressional candidate Randy Walter of Canfield admitted they did not circulate petitions and/or falsified signatures. That case remains with the criminal division for possible charges, Saker said.
Liquor options rejected
Also Tuesday, the board also rejected three other liquor options for having an insufficient number of signatures. Generally this happens because signatures on the petitions come from people living outside of the precinct named, officials said. The three options are Weathersfield Township, Precinct E; Speed Check Food Mart in Warren, Precinct 7E; and two questions for Longview Golf Course, Bazetta A.
The board voted 2-2 and rejected a proposal by Republican board member Ron Knight to reduce the number of voting precincts countywide from 274 to 243 by March 2007, 212 by August 2007, to 181 by March 2009 and 150 or less by August 2009.
Knight and Bonar voted yes, and Democrats Barbara Katzenberger and Sherron Platt voted no.
Katzenberger said she opposes the reduction on the basis that election law changes are already taking place -- such as one requiring voters to show identification this November -- and believes those changes should be complete first.