Supreme Court sides with Democrat looking to get on statehouse ballot in Montgomery County

Ohio Rep. Phil Plummer and Leronda Jackson are competing for the 40th Ohio House district seat this election.

Combined ShapeCaption
Ohio Rep. Phil Plummer and Leronda Jackson are competing for the 40th Ohio House district seat this election.

The Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the Montgomery County Board of Elections to accept candidacy forms for a Democratic write-in candidate for the Aug. 2 election who filed to run for the statehouse after the February deadline imposed by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Leronda Jackson would be the only Democrat running for the 39th Ohio House District in the primary, guaranteeing her a spot on the November general election ballot. She would run against incumbent Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., in a district that now leans Democratic after legislative redistricting.

ExploreDemocrat’s legal challenge to get on ballot aided by elections official ‘mistake’

In a 4-3 decision with Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor siding with the three Democrats, the state’s high court on Friday ruled that LaRose improperly imposed the February filing deadline despite the election for statehouse races being postponed from May to August because of partisan redistricting disputes. The ruling paves the way for six Democratic candidates in five counties to run as long as they meet other requirements.

“I don’t believe (the Ohio Supreme Court) understands the impact of their decision, how it impacts an election,” said Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Jeff Rezabek.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections will meet Thursday to vote on whether Jackson meets other qualifications to be on the ballot. The outcome of that vote could be protested by either Democrats or Republicans, possibly leading to another hearing the day before early voting is scheduled to start Wednesday, July 6.

This means the board of elections may have to rewrite ballots and reprogram their voting equipment — a process that usually takes two weeks — in nine hours, Rezabek said. And they may have to resend ballots to military and overseas voters.

LaRose said the four justices in the majority, “are either ignorant of election law and administration or indifferent to the confusion they continue to create.”

“This ignores the rule of law, sets a terrible precedent, and causes an unnecessary disservice to Ohio voters, especially those serving in our military,” he said.

Montgomery County Board of Elections officials initially said agency deputy director Sarah Greathouse, a Democrat, mistakenly accepted Jackson’s filing after agreeing with the Republican agency director that the board wouldn’t accept candidates’ filings at that time.

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Greathouse said Tuesday that she did nothing wrong. She said state elections rules prohibit board of elections staff from pre-screening declarations of candidacy.

“In accepting the candidate’s declaration, I 100% was in compliance with Ohio’s law,” she said. “Only the board of elections itself may determine whether or not such declaration is valid. The only mistake I made was in neglecting to tell my counterpart that I had reconsidered the issue.”

Jackson, a small business owner in Englewood, said she didn’t file for the seat by the February deadline because the maps were in flux and it wasn’t clear what district she was in.

Jackson ran against Plummer in 2020 and lost with 35% of the vote. But the district at that time leaned 58.7% Republican to 39% Democrat, according to Dave’s Redistricting, a website that uses composite election results to estimate partisan lean. The newly redrawn district now leans 50.1% Democratic to 47.9% Republican, according to that analysis.

Combined ShapeCaption
Source: Dave's Redistricting, Ohio Secretary of State

Credit: Mark Freistedt

Source: Dave's Redistricting, Ohio Secretary of State

Credit: Mark Freistedt

Combined ShapeCaption
Source: Dave's Redistricting, Ohio Secretary of State

Credit: Mark Freistedt

Credit: Mark Freistedt

“It’s a winnable race now. At least it’s competitive,” she said.

“I hope to close the disconnect between the statehouse and our house, and the disconnect just got wider,” she said of why she chose to run, noting recent and pending state legislation on guns and abortion.

Plummer, who is also Montgomery County GOP chairman and former county sheriff, said the Supreme Court’s ruling was a “poor decision,” noting he and others were able to file by the February deadline.

“It’s wrong. We have rules and standards for a reason. We need to stop accepting double standards,” he said.

Plummer said he is not concerned about winning re-election in a blue-leaning district if Jackson gets on the November ballot.

“I’m a common sense conservative. I represent everybody. My history shows what I’m capable of doing. I’m not worried about it,” he said.


Here are the competitive local races and issues in the Aug. 2 ballot:

House District 55 (Eastern and northern Warren County, including Springboro)

Republican primary

- Thomas Goodwin

- Scott Lipps (Incumbent)

House District 56 (Central and southwest Warren County, including Lebanon and Mason)

Democrat primary

- Joy Bennett

- Sam Cao

Republican primary

- Kathy Grossmann

- Adam Mathews

House District 70 (Western Greene County, including Beavercreek)

Republican primary

- Brian Lampton (Incumbent)

- Katherine Shutte

Issues

- The city of Xenia is asking voters to approve amendments to the city charter to clarify rules for city council members and filling vacant seats, adding language that the city must comply with Ohio’s Uniform Tax Levy Law, and specifying that Ohio Ethics Law applies to all city officials and its employees.

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