By Marc Kovac
Two Democratic elections-board members fired by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted have filed suit, saying their dismissal was unconstitutional.
Former Montgomery County board members Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr. are seeking a temporary restraining order and immediate reinstatement to their positions.
“We believe SOS Husted was wrong when he unjustly fired us. He violated our free speech and the free speech of other county elections board members,” Lieberman said in a statement released Monday. “SOS Husted fired us and then dared other election board members to try and stand up for the voters in their community.”
Lieberman and Ritchie were removed from their board posts by Husted after continuing a push for early voting hours on weekends despite an order from the state’s chief elections official to the contrary.
Husted earlier issued a directive ordering boards to adopt uniform weekday in-person early voting hours, with no Saturdays or Sundays.
Lieberman and Ritchie argued the directive did not specifically prohibit weekend hours, and they have continued to voice support for providing additional opportunities for voters to cast early ballots.
Legal counsel for Husted countered that the secretary’s directive was clear, and Ritchie and Lieberman were in violation of state law.
In a letter to the two late last month, Husted wrote that they “knowingly and willfully violated Ohio election laws by not following [my directive], which Ohio law requires you to follow.”
Lieberman and Ritchie filed their wrongful-termination lawsuit in federal court in Dayton.
According to those documents, “While it can be argued that the plaintiffs have legal remedy in the form of damages approximating $150,000 resulting from the unconstitutional termination of their positions, money is not their motivation. The real issues here are public issues, and they would gladly dismiss their civil damage claims if their equitable claims are honored.”