If the four members of the Mahoning County Board of Elections fail to do the honorable thing and resign, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner should use her authority and fire them. Why?
Because Republicans Clarence Smith and Mark Munroe and Democrats Michael Morley and Robert Wasko through sheer incompetence have given credibility to the Black Helicopter crowd — the conspiracy theorists who are James A. Traficant Jr.’s supporters.
The controversy over Traficant’s candidacy petitions to run as an independent in the 17th District congressional race in November would not have occurred had the four board members been directly involved in the review of the petitions signed by Mahoning County voters.
To be sure, checking the accuracy of the signatures on the petitions is the job of the board of elections staff led by the director, Thomas McCabe, a Republican. The deputy director is Joyce Kale Pesta, a Democrat. But because it was Traficant — he has turned political conspiracies into an art form — seeking to get on the ballot, Smith, Munroe, Morley and Wasko should have taken a hands-on approach.
They didn’t, and now the board of elections has to eat crow.
After first saying that the former 17th District congressman-turned-federal prisoner did not have the required number of legitimate signatures, it now turns out that he did, indeed, have more than enough. Thus on Friday it was acknowledged by the board staff that Traficant has met the legal requirements to run as an independent candidate for Congress.
Hence, the title of this blog, “Heads must roll at board of elections.” If it sounds familiar, that’s because on Oct. 25 of last year it was the headline to this writer’s column about another debacle at the board.
Here what was written, in part:
“Having a clerk take the fall for what is by any measure a major foul-up at the Mahoning County Board of Elections is not only unfair but is unacceptable.
“To be sure, Danielle O’Neill must be held to account for not sending to the county commissioners the ballot language for the half-percent sales tax renewal that was prepared by the Ohio secretary of state’s office. But O’Neill, who has worked for the board of elections for 20 years, isn’t the only one at fault.”
Then, as now, the fault went all the way up to the top.
There are reports that O’Neill was involved in checking the signatures on Traficant’s petitions. If that’s so, her bosses, the director and deputy director, have some explaining to do.
In the end, however, it is the responsibility of the four members of the board of elections to ensure that everything is done according to law and the rules and regulations established by the secretary of state are followed. Because they again failed in the performance of their duties, they should resign or Secretary Brunner should fire them.