A Republican member of the Montgomery County Board of Elections called for the agency’s Democrat deputy director to resign Thursday, displaying a bitter partisan divide at the board days before the start of early voting for the Aug. 2 election.
The dispute arose over Deputy Director Sarah Greathouse accepting an application from a Democrat wanting to run as a write-in candidate for statehouse in the Aug. 2 primary after a February filing deadline imposed by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
Greathouse and her Republican counterpart, agency Director Jeff Rezabek, originally agreed not to accept any filings after the February deadline. Greathouse said she later concluded she was legally obligated to accept the filing and did so without Rezabek’s knowledge.
The candidate and others then filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled last week that LaRose improperly imposed the February deadline despite the election being postponed from May to August. The court ordered elections boards to accept the filings.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections voted Thursday along party lines to certify the candidate, Leronda Jackson, as a write-in for the August primary pursuant to the supreme court ruling. The two Democrats voted to certify her candidacy, one Republican voted against it and the other Republican abstained.
The Republicans then confronted Greathouse.
“Let me ask you for the good of the order, for the good of all here at the board of elections and our employees, I’m going to ask that you resign your position now, effective immediately,” said board member Thomas Routsong.
Greathouse did not respond, but the Democrats on the board objected. The Republicans tried twice to recess into a closed door executive session on the matter but the Democrats on the board would not agree.
Rezabek said Greathouse “betrayed” him, asked the board to take action and said the board “is now fighting constantly, can’t agree on anything, become partisan.”
“The only people that get hurt are the voters of Montgomery County,” he said.
Routsong and fellow Republican board member Erik Blaine said the issue undermined the “integrity” of the agency tasked with holding fair and accurate elections.
“Our whole basis is integrity of elections and that goes upon trust and there is absolutely no trust between our employees and their leadership,” Routsong said.
Democrats on the board accused the Republicans of politicizing the issue.
Democratic board member Kurt Hatcher said Greathouse made the right decision because if the board would have refused to accept Jackson’s filing it would be legally liable. Her only mistake was not making sure her co-equal agency director was aware of what she was doing, he said.
“To request Sarah to resign over what I what I would at best at this point characterize as failure to perfectly follow through on a professional courtesy is ridiculous,” he said.
He called characterizations of the board as playing partisan games “disgusting.”
Greathouse declined to comment Thursday citing advice from her attorney. Greathouse in a statement earlier this week said she concluded the law required her to accept the filing.
“Only the board of elections itself may determine whether or not such declaration is valid,” she said. “The only mistake I made was in neglecting to tell my counterpart that I had reconsidered the issue.”
Jackson is the only Democrat running for the 39th House District, meaning she is guaranteed to get her party’s nomination and will be on the ballot as a Democrat in November against incumbent state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp.
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