Elections board should take time on eligibility issue
The Mahoning County Board of Elections made the right decision this week when it decided to delay taking action on the eligibility of Douglas Bobovnyik, an independent candidate seeking to run for Mahoning County sheriff in November.
Questions arose about Bobovnyik’s eligibility because of an error regarding his residency during years 2004, 2005 and 2008 on his affidavit. Bobovnyik reported he had lived in Salem during those years, but voting records indicate he voted in Mahoning County those years, raising a red flag for the elections board.
In reality, Bobovnyik, a retired Youngstown police officer, was required to report on his residency dating back to only 2014 — the past six years.
Ryan Stubenrauch, his attorney, acknowledged his client erred when he wrote he lived in Columbiana County during those years when he actually lived in Youngstown. But what happened more than a decade ago has nothing to do with Bobovnyik’s candidacy, Stubenrauch argued.
Whether errors in unrequired information are reason enough to disqualify a candidate remains to be seen. The board of elections rightfully decided to postpone the certification process until Tuesday to give them time to determine the candidate’s eligibility.
David Betras, vice chairman of the board of elections, was ready, however, to toss the candidate from the ballot immediately.
“He shouldn’t be allowed on the ballot because he screwed up his affidavit,” said Betras, a Democrat. “That’s part of the nominating process and he said incorrect stuff and it makes him ineligible to run. Clearly, his paperwork is flawed. He has an affidavit in front of a judge that’s not accurate.”
Offering a more reasonable reaction, Mark Munroe, chairman of the board of elections, said, “There were questions about this and we determined we could take another week to review the facts of the case and invite a representative from the prosecutor’s office to assist us.
“What happened 15 years ago is unclear to me. I’m reluctant to opine on this until we hear more. The law requires only the six-year look-back. I don’t know if the rest is material,” said Munroe, a Republican.
Munroe’s explanation makes sense.
The question at hand, indeed, is of a legal — not political — nature. Munroe is correct in his call for a delay on the decision, despite Betras’ argument to disqualify Bobovnyik quickly.
Let’s face it, the board of elections is appointed to ensure elections go off fairly — not to limit competition for either political party.
If Bobovnyik is certified for the November election ballot, he will be the only challenger for incumbent Jerry Greene, a Boardman Democrat who is running for his third four-year term.