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Two election petitions rejected in YS school board race

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Two Yellow Springs School Board incumbents, Vice President Aïda Mehermic and first-term member Steve McQueen will not be eligible to run for office in the 2021 election cycle because their petitions were not certified by the Greene County Board of Elections, or BOE.

In an email response to the News on why the petitions were not certified, BOE Director Alisha Beeler wrote that McQueen did not have the number of valid signatures he needed for certification. Also, the circulator section of the form was completed incorrectly, so the petition did not count. Merhemic left the circulator statement blank, and no parts of the petition were dated or signed.

Beeler also defined the term circulator statement writing, “The circulator statement is a testament that the person who circulated the form watched all the people sign and are affirming them to be valid and true to the best of their knowledge. This is a key aspect to all petitions.”

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Anyone interested in running for a seat on the Yellow Springs School board must be nominated by petition, according to Ohio law. A school district the size of Yellow Springs requires that 25 signatures be submitted for certification. Once these signatures are certified by the Board of Elections, then a person’s name is placed on the official ballot for the election.

However, as previously reported by the News, getting on the ballot is a precise process. In the past, there have been villagers who declared an intention to run for office and gathered the necessary signatures — only to be declared ineligible because the required signatures were on the wrong form. Another common problem is that not all the signatures gathered were from registered voters.

According to McQueen, his submitted petition wasn’t certified because the BOE couldn’t count one of the pages.

“I started getting signatures on it, but my wife finished the page that I started. I later learned that two people can’t do signatures on the same page,” McQueen told the News in a recent interview.

According to McQueen, he was in the process of gathering signatures for the petition when his ailing father’s health issues worsened. McQueen, a New Jersey native, returned to his home state to care for his father, and his wife gathered the remaining signatures for the petition while he was away. In normal circumstances, he would have been the only person gathering the signatures for his ballot petition.

“She can get signatures for me, just not on the same page,” McQueen said he later found out.

According to McQueen, the BOE said they couldn’t determine how many signatures were obtained by his wife and how many he gathered on one of the petition pages. Therefore, they couldn’t determine which specific signatures were witnessed by whom.

McQueen said he understands the bureaucratic nature of the process, having volunteered with the BOE for the past five years as voting location manager, ensuring that mail-in ballot addresses line up.

The BOE reviews the petition instructions with all potential candidates, but McQueen believes that understanding the rules better when special circumstances occur could clear some confusion, and that more could be done to prevent mistakes.

“I suggest a petition class to the Board of Elections because they can tell you how to complete a petition and can refer you to online resources. But when you turn in your petition, they can only look at your page, they can’t tell you [that you] made a mistake when you turn it in,” McQueen said.

“It doesn’t bother me that I made a mistake, but according to state law, because the petition wasn’t certified, I can’t do a write-in campaign,” McQueen added.

McQueen said he would have been better off running as a write-in candidate even though he wouldn’t have been able to put up signs or campaign in the same way.

McQueen did file a request for a reconsideration hearing but doesn’t expect that it will help his case.

“No one wants to set that precedent of extending time to submit a petition, because of someone’s sob story,” McQueen said.

Although McQueen can run for election again in two years, his vision for the next term had he been re-elected included taking more of a leadership role and possibly even serving as vice president/president of the school board. His first term included learning the ins and outs of the job.

“I am on the Greene County Career Center Board, the Black caucus for the Ohio State School Board Association to learn how other boards do it, to find out how leadership is with different organizations,” said McQueen, who is the only African American school band member for the district.

“I feel like I let a lot of people down,” McQueen said.

Attempts to reach Merhemic were not successful by press time, but the longtime school board member wrote a letter to the editor in this week’s News expressing disappointment that she will be unable to run for re-election because of petition errors.

“I am terribly disappointed that my tenure is now ending, not because of my lack of interest in continuing to serve, but because of my making an error in filing the election petition correctly,” Merhemic wrote.

The third school board incumbent, Steve Conn, had decided not to run for re-election.

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