Stow charter amendments still questionable for Nov. 3 ballot

Laura Freeman
Kent Weeklies
Stow Law Director Jaime Syx has filed legal action with the Ohio Supreme Court with the goal of putting nine proposed charter amendments on the Nov. 3 ballot.

STOW – Time may be running out for charter amendments to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters to decide.

The Ohio Supreme Court has received for a writ of mandamus from the city involving an expedited election matter which would require the nine proposed charter amendments to be included on the fall ballot.

Sept. 4 was the deadline to submit issues such as charter amendments to the board of elections. Stow’s Charter Review Commission had presented the nine proposed amendments to city council to be placed on the ballot.

Filed Aug. 28 by Stow's law director, Jaime Syx, on behalf of the city and the charter review commission, it names city council and its members, as well as the Summit County Board of Elections, as the respondents in the legal action.

Council members Aug. 6 failed to approve any of the proposed charter amendments after making their own changes to each of them. The charter review commission met the next day and approved a motion to “request the administration to file an action to compel council to move the unamended proposed charter amendments forward to the ballot.”

Because city council did not approve any of the amendments, the only way to place them on the ballot was through court action, said Syx.

The complaint requests that the court compel council, at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 10, to hold an administrative vote, solely on the matter of whether the text of the language proposed in the amendments "fairly and accurately presents the questions or issues to be decided." Council would then submit the approved amendments to the electors, "in their original form", for the Nov. 3 general election.

In the event the court does not compel council to hold the vote, or, if council declines to vote, despite an order from the court to hold such a vote, the city seeks an order to command the board of elections to accept the amendments, in their original form, from the city and review them for placement on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

An order from the court also would be necessary in either situation to command the board of elections to accept a submission after the Sept. 4 deadline.

The state's high court set a deadline of 5 p.m. Sept. 4 for all parties to have submitted their briefs and evidence.

Summit County Board of Elections board members met Aug. 25 and were concerned about the number of amendments and whether Stow’s ballot would go to a second page. 

Lance Reed, director for the board of elections, said the ballot layout will be affected significantly if they go to a second page.

When issues like charter amendments come to the ballot they have to go through several steps, Reed said, including review by the prosecutor’s office, who receives it first and signs off on the language, then two board members from the board of elections review the ballot language and then it goes to the Secretary of State.

On any of the steps, the issue could be approved or need a rewrite, Reed said. If a rewrite is required, even something as simple as a comma, then it goes back to the city and starts the process all over again.

“If there are problems, it’s sent back to the city and everyone else so they are all on the same page,” Reed said. “Once that [issues] comes back to us and everyone has approved them, we create issue numbers.”

The Sept. 4 deadline gives the board of elections two weeks to create the ballot so it is ready to be mailed overseas on Sept. 18 to qualified voters who live outside the country, he said.

Voters who have requested mail-in ballots will begin to receive them Oct. 6 when ballots are mailed to voters, Reed said. In-person voting begins Oct. 6 at 500 Grant Street. Hours will be posted on the website soon.

To check if a resident is registered to vote or find a polling location, go to https://voterlookup.ohiosos.gov. Voters need to be registered 30 days before the election or Oct. 5 for the Nov. 3 election. Information is included at the site about precincts and the districts for state representative and senators.

Voters can apply for an absentee ballot any time before noon on Oct. 31 by going to the Summit County Board of Elections website www.summitcountyboe.gov and downloading an absentee ballot application and hand deliver or mail it to Summit County Board of Elections Absentee Department, 470 Grant St., Akron 44311.

The Ohio Secretary of State will not allow absentee ballots to be sent out by the elections board until Oct. 6.

The last day for absentee voting is at 2 p.m. Nov. 2. Do not drop absentee ballots off at a polling location, as they will not be counted. All absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within 10 days after Election Day.

Polls on Nov. 3 will be open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Anyone who has voted with an absentee ballot cannot vote in person. 

Editor Marsha McKenna contributed to this report.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com