Disputed candidacy to be resolved by Secretary of State’s Office

By Dean Wright - deanwright@civitasmedia.com

GALLIPOLIS — After a recently deadlocked vote, the Gallia County Board of Elections has sent a disputed candidacy claim up to be resolved by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office and is still in question as to its conclusion.

Pam Riley, current Springfield Township Fiscal Officer, is attempting to make a bid for Gallia County Treasurer as an independent candidate. Riley turned in her running petition in mid-March. Her petition to run as an independent was denied due to a dispute as to whether Riley was to be considered a democrat, making her ineligible to run as an independent in the November elections.

“I was shocked to hear that my petition had been denied,” said Riley. “Independent candidates are becoming more important in today’s elections.”

Board members met in April and voted on Riley’s petition apart from two other independent candidates gearing to run this fall. Mark Danner is making an independent bid for Gallia County Commissioner and Bill Medley is running for Gallia County Court of Common Pleas. The board at the time voted to hold Riley’s petition back to not allow her to run for the election.

The board also received a letter of concern from Judy Jones, of Gallipolis, saying that Riley had been a long time member of the Democratic Party as well as a member of the Gallia Democratic Party’s executive committee and had served as the Democratic Party candidate for county treasurer in 2012.

After the rejection, according to Riley, she collected research and documents of previous board meetings. She requested to present and appeal her position to run as an independent before the board at a regular board meeting in late April.

According to Riley, she offered a court case called Morrison v. Colley, 467 F.3d 503 (6th Cir. 2006) as part of her reason for why she should be able to run. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit originally tried the case.

According to an interpretation of the case stated in a letter written by former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, “indications of party affiliation such as past voting history, information submitted on required election-related filings, political advertisements, participation as a political party officer or member, or holding a public office for which the office holder was nominate through a political party’s primary election and election on a partisan ticket may serve as evidence, though not necessarily conclusive evidence, of a party affiliation to support a protest against an independent candidate’s candidacy. For example, voting history, alone is an insufficient basis on which to disqualify an independent candidate because Ohioans are freely entitled to change or revoke their party affiliation at any time. However, voting history, together with other facts tending to indicate party affiliation, may be sufficient grounds to disqualify an independent.”

Boards can accept petitions at face value. If a protest is filed against a candidate, a board can inquire further into the candidate’s history.

Riley says the last Democratic Party meeting she attended was Feb. 4, 2014 and that she had voted independent in the 2016 primary and officially disassociated herself from the Democratic Executive Committee in February of this year before presenting her petition for candidacy. She supposedly voted democrat in elections two years ago. Riley also said she had thought she had removed her name from the executive committee earlier but made certain of it this February.

Board members then voted in a deadlocked position as to whether to allow Riley to run as an independent. Because of this, her candidacy’s status has been left to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to decide its fate, which is currently unknown.

Riley cited conflicts with the Gallia County Democratic Party as one of her reasons for desiring to run as an independent for county treasurer.

Dean Wright can be reached at (7400 446-2342, Ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright