Election challenge

With the protest filed last week against the write-in declaration of Rhonda Damschroder to run for the 88th District House of Representatives seat, multiple issues have been brought to light concerning Ohio Revised Code and the legality of the declaration.

State Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, withdrew from the race in February after discovering that a missing signature invalidated his election petition.

After discussion with his attorneys, Damschroder’s wife, Rhonda, filed as a write-in candidate. If she wins the primary, she has said, she is to drop out of the race. Representatives from the Seneca and Sandusky County Republican Central Committees then could choose a candidate to run in the general election, leaving the position open for any candidate, including Rex Damschroder.

John Brewer filed a protest against Rhonda Damschroder’s candidacy last Tuesday, stating she was committing election fraud because she did not intend to run for office.

Sections of Ohio Revised Code have been cited within the protest and the declaration of candidacy. According to Ohio Revised Code 3515.31, if a person nominated in a primary election withdraws as the candidate, “the vacancy in the party nomination so created may be filled by a district committee of the major political party that made the nomination at the primary election.”

The district committee is to be comprised of the chairperson and secretary of the county central committee of the political party of each county in the district, so the position would be filled by the four individuals from Seneca and Sandusky counties.

Within Ohio Revised Code, it is not necessary to advertise the position, and the district committee could pick anyone to fill the position.

Also included in Ohio Revised Code is the definition of election falsification, which states that falsification includes lying on a declaration of candidacy or declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate.

The declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate, Form No. 13 from the secretary of state’s website, has candidates fill out their name and address, along with declaring they are an elector qualified to vote for the office they seek.

The candidate must fill out one of the options, which states for the primary election, the individual must write in the political party they are seeking the nomination of and the date of the election.

In regards to a protest, the board of elections of the most populous county determines in a hearing whether the declaration is valid or invalid. The Sandusky County Board of Elections is to make a decision on the validity of the protest.

Ohio Revised Code 3513.041 states if the candidate is not an elector of the office they seek or has not complied with the requirements of the code, “the candidate’s declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate shall be determined to be invalid and shall be rejected; otherwise, it shall be determined to be valid.”

The board’s decision is final.

The political party of the protestor or the individual the protest is filed against does not have any weight on the protest, according to Ohio Revised Code.

Ohio Revised Code can be found at codes.ohio.gov.

Seneca County Republican Central Committee Chairman David Koehl said the issue is not misleading, as everything has been stated publicly.

The meeting to decide a replacement should Rhonda Damschroder win the primary and resign would be open to the public and announced in advance. The committee also would not be selected until after the Democratic and Republican Central Committees reorganize in late May or early June, Koehl said.

Koehl said if he was re-elected as chairman and if Rhonda Damschroder did win the primary election, he would follow the choice of the voters and choose Rex Damschroder to fill the position.

“In this situation, I would feel obligated to respect the decision of the primary voters,” he said.

He said if Bill Reineke or Rick Geyer were to win the primary, the situation would be a “moot point.”

Koehl also stated the declaration of intent that all write-in candidates completed did not state the candidate would run in the general election if they won the primary.

“The form merely states that she is seeking the nomination at the primary, which is true. There is no requirement on the form that she continue on to the general election, or serve in the office,” Koehl said.

Bill Young, the write-in candidate for the Democratic Party, said no matter what outcome the Republican primary will have, it is to be an interesting race.

He also said the public now is aware of such clerical issues that could affect individuals throughout the state.

“Whenever you make a mistake it makes you wonder what mistakes are made in Columbus,” he said.

Rex Damschroder said although he did not agree with the law, it was very important to follow it and his attorneys checked the law carefully before the decision was made to run his wife in his place.

“The last thing I want to do is deceive the press or the public,” he said.

He also said his wife has not made any public comments and he is to handle all communication during the campaign.

Brewer stated because Rhonda Damschroder is not commenting on the matter, he has no comment as his protest does not directly involve Rex Damschroder.

Seneca County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Mary Puffenberger was unavailable for comment.

Attempts to contact Geyer and Reineke were unsuccessful.