Local Pictures
Classified Ads
 Announce Births
Email Us
Buy A Copy
Local Links

click here to
The Daily



09-17-03: Lawsuit seeks to change ballot


There are 19 issues on Mercer County ballots this year, but one of those ballot questions for Franklin Township voters is being challenged in court.
A civil suit filed in Mercer County Common Pleas Court against the Mercer County Board of Elections seeks to declare invalid the petition material used to bring a zoning question to the ballot in Franklin Township. If successful, the referendum question could be removed or nullified prior to the Nov. 4 election.
Celina Attorney James Tesno filed the suit on behalf of Maria Stein developer Rick Uppen- kamp in late August after an elections board hearing determined the referendum issue would be placed on the ballot, despite irregularities in the petition process claimed by Tesno.
The referendum question asks voters if they should overturn a zoning decision by the Franklin Township Trustees, changing 64 acres on Behm Road from an agriculture/residential zoning to strictly residential zoning. Uppenkamp has plans for a housing development.
Prior to the trustees’ decision, the Franklin Township Zoning Commission ruled against the change and denied the request. Within a month, the trustees overturned this decision.
In an interview in his office this week, Tesno said there are two issues to be considered by Judge Jeffrey Ingraham: whether the alleged irregularities are sufficient to deny the petitions, and whether the elections board hearing was adequate.
Ingraham last week set dates for Tesno to present his argument in writing and a date for Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Andy Hinders to respond on behalf of the elections board. The judge set the conference date for Oct. 21, when the issue may be decided.
In June, Uppenkamp and Tesno filed a protest against the referendum decision, alleging errors in procedure, form and signatures on the petitions that were circulated to get the issue to the ballot.
At the August hearing on the protest, elections board members questioned petitioners Elyse Zimmerman, David Axe and Randy Wyerick if they fully explained their goal to the signers, and if they used the correct map to show residents the area in the zoning change.
Uppenkamp stated he thought the description on the petition was vague and could have been interpreted as a petition against developer Steve Klosterman, who had business before trustees at the same meeting Uppenkamp’s request was granted.
“There’s just enough here to confuse you,” Uppenkamp said at the hearing.
Although the outcome won’t emerge until nearly Election Day, both attorneys acknowledged this issue can be seen as moving quickly through the court. The abundance of facts and recorded testimonies from the elections board hearing eliminates the need for more testimonies and extra legwork for the attorneys, Hinders said Tuesday.
Tesno said he is unsure of the exact procedure of the board of elections, but he surmised the elections board would take steps to remove the question from the ballot if the judge decrees so.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s office requires the local boards of elections have the ballots prepared before Oct. 1, Elections Director Toni Slusser said. Also, absentee ballots already have been prepared and those voting with that method can request and submit ballots as early as Oct. 1.
Slusser said she has not seen an issue similar to this before and questions the legality of changing ballots so close to the election.
Hinders and Tesno said it is possible the votes that come in on the question simply would not be counted, if the judge nullifies the question. But, the issue also could be appealed again to the Third District Court of Appeals in Lima.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
All content copyright 2003
The Standard Printing Company
P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822