Today, I called the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to get the signature requirements for petitions to be a candidate for the new county executive and council seats and the county executive seat recently created by the passage of Issue 6. ?I spoke to five different people, from the bottom to the top. ?No one knows, and the entire question is at this moment in the hands of the board’s lawyers – namely, the lawyer who represents all county business….Issue 6 architect and county prosecutor Bill Mason.

The reason? ?The language in the new charter which governs the signature requirements is as vague as it could possibly be. ?Section 2.01 governing the county executive.

Any candidate for?election as County Executive shall be an elector of the County at the time of filing of the?declaration of candidacy, shall be nominated and elected in the manner provided for?county officers by general law and this Charter

Section 3.01 governing the county council.

It shall consist of
eleven members, who shall be nominated and elected as provided in this Charter and in
the manner provided by general law for county officers.

It shall consist of?eleven members, who shall be nominated and elected as provided in this Charter and in?the manner provided by general law for county officers.

That vague language would appear to trigger ORC 3513.05, which calls for “not less than fifty” signatures. ?To date, all Cuyahoga County elected offices,?including all the judicial offices on the ballot in 2010,?require that number, 50, for all partisan primary elections, which the new county charter specifically creates in Section 13.02. ? Thus, it would seem unlikely that the signature requirement for the new council and executive offices would be anything but 50.

So why the vague language in the charter? ?And why does it have to go to Bill Mason for interpretation? ?I specifically asked these questions, and got no real answer. ?In addition, there is no public hearing on the matter. ?So Bill Mason gets to make this decision on his own, with no review or public oversight absent litigation.

As I’ve written before, a high signature requirement is inherently undemocratic, and potentially subject to such litigation. ?High signature requirements close out candidates who do not already have machines of patronage to collect signatures, and raise an equal protection question if they are proportionally larger than requirements for seats that represent similar or greater populations.

It seems pretty obvious that the signature requirement for both the county council seats and the county executive not only should be, but must be 50, based on any reasonable interpretation. ?If Bill Mason’s office decides this issue any other way, I suspect it will be yet another avenue of investigation for the people currently covering Parma with subpoenas and wiretaps.

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