Brunner must break certification deadlock
By ED RUNYAN
Supporters of Jim Traficant’s bid to run as an independent candidate for the 17th District congressional seat held by Democrat Tim Ryan of Niles considered it a victory Tuesday when the Trumbull County Board of Elections refused to certify new petition numbers.
The 2-2 vote — with former county Democratic Party Chairman Chris Michelakis and former county Republican Party Chairman Craig Bonar voting no — means Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner will be asked to break the tie.
Voting for certification were elections-board members Ralph Infante, a Democrat mayor of Niles; and Kathi Creed, Trumbull County Republican Party chairwoman.
Kelly Pallante, board of elections director, said revised numbers from various elections boards show Traficant is 31 signatures short of having enough to get on the ballot in November. After review, Trumbull County has ruled 11 signatures to be valid that it earlier had said were not valid.
“The secretary of state has high- paid attorneys. I feel just let them handle it,” Michelakis said after the meeting.
“Legally, it looks like we could have turned it down [Traficant’s ability to run as an independent], but that’s also a question that needs to be answered,” Michelakis said.
Werner Lange of Newton Falls, a Traficant supporter, pleaded with the board to refuse to certify the current petition numbers, saying there are still too many unanswered questions regarding signatures that were ruled invalid — especially in Mahoning County.
Lange said 62 signatures ruled invalid in Mahoning County should have been ruled valid.
Ohio elections law allows an elections board to certify signatures even if they don’t perfectly match the signature from the voter’s registration card, as long as the address matches, Lange said.
The responses he has received from Mahoning County’s elections board have not adequately answered that and other questions, Lange said.
Thomas McCabe, Mahoning County Board of Elections director; and Joyce Kale-Pesta, deputy director, could not be reached Tuesday by The Vindicator to comment.
As for Summit County, that county’s elections board is providing only an estimate of the number of votes cast in the 17th Congressional District in the November 2006 election — which factors into how many petition signatures Traficant needed — because the software used there didn’t record the total.
“Nobody knows how many people voted in the 17th District,” Lange said.
James Saker, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor who advises the elections board, said the Trumbull elections board has certified numbers of valid signatures from Mahoning, Summit and Portage counties — plus its own numbers — and “has the authority” to certify that the total number is 31 signatures short.
After submitting the tie vote to the secretary of state and getting back a response, the Trumbull elections board might have another meeting later this month to beat the Aug. 24 deadline for setting the November slate of candidates, Pallante said.
Traficant still could file by 4 p.m. Aug. 23 to run as a write-in candidate, Pallante said.