Signatures Questioned On City Council Reform Effort

Workers identified as Jon and Willis gather petition signatures at an Earth Day event in downtown Columbus.(Photo: Facebook)
Workers identified as Jon and Willis gather petition signatures at an Earth Day event in downtown Columbus.(Photo: Facebook)

Local elections officials say an effort to overhaul Columbus City Council was doomed by basic errors.

The Franklin County Board of Elections says out of the 26,870 petition signatures handed in by the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government, only 8,471, or 31.5 percent, were ruled valid.

About 650 signatures were ruled “not genuine” after elections officials said signatures did not match those on voter registration forms, or because it appeared signatures for multiple voters were submitted in one handwriting style.

The Columbus Coalition has been trying to get the city to switch from a seven-member, at-large council system to a system with four at-large members and seven city council wards.

“We were surprised at the number of invalid signatures submitted,” Franklin County Board of Elections Director Bill Anthony wrote in a statement. “Some petitions had no valid signatures out of 25 possible on a single document.”

“They should have known that only voters registered in Columbus precincts were eligible to sign a Columbus charter petition and explained that to anyone signing,” wrote Deputy Board of Elections Director Dana Walch.

“But they accepted signatures from voters who listed addresses outside the city, including at least one from Cleveland.”

A post on the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government’s Facebook page read “We question that the Board used the wrong standard for assessing the number of signatures needed, and that the Board irregularly broke up the petitions into two stacks based on a flawed interpretation of the law.

“We continue to insist that City Council should put this issue on the ballot, as it does typically for Charter Amendments without requiring any signatures,” the statement read.

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