Miami County’s Board of Elections agreed Aug. 27 to start providing a candidate guide to each prospective candidate obtaining petitions for elected office in hopes of reducing the number of petitions invalidated because of mistakes.

The board also is checking with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to make sure it is OK to also give the prospective candidates a checklist to use in reviewing petitions for compliance with requirements before filing with the elections office.

The measures were discussed by the board after more than 30 candidate petitions for the November ballot were invalidated because of errors, most considered “fatal” under state law. The board heard protests filed by some candidates, voting in the end to approve three petitions despite mistakes on which the board had some leeway.

The elections staff came under fire during some of those hearings by candidates who said no one in the elections office would answer their questions. Board members explained staff was following instructions by the board based on the law and directives from the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections statewide.

The board agreed staff could copy and hand out to each candidate the Secretary of State’s candidate guide. The guide also is available online. The guide covers every office that could be on the ballot, said Bev Kendall, elections director.

“In my mind we are trying to balance between not giving legal advice and not giving someone incorrect advice and trying to balance that with running free elections and facilitating the voters making the choices,” said board member Robert Huffman Jr.

The board voted 3-0 to have staff make copies of the Secretary of State candidate guide and hand it to everyone taking out a petition. Those voting were Chairman Kelly Gillis, member Dean Tamplin and member Robert Huffman Jr. Board member Jose Lopez was absent.

“That way we can give to them. The rest of it is on them,” Gillis said.

The candidate filing checklist reviewed by the board came from the Montgomery County Board of Elections use one.

That document states to the candidate the board staff “is not permitted to check validity and sufficiency of original petitions before filing. Candidates are responsible for the correct and accurate preparation and circulation of their petition.”

Among the petition areas on the checklist are statement of candidacy, nominating petition, signatures, dates and the circulator statement.

“This will hopefully help people make less errors,” Huffman said. “We want to help make fewer errors but also are obligated to follow the law,” he said.

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