Petitions to run for governor submitted by Trotwood resident Larry Ealy were forwarded to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted for investigation of possible fraudulent signatures, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said the office had not yet received the complaint, but would ask the local board to do the formal investigation in conjunction with the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office. Harsman said election falsification is a fifth-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a fifth-degree felony in Ohio is 12 months in prison.
Ealy, 51, and his running mate Ken Gray of Cincinnati were certified by Husted’s office to run in the Democratic primary in May against Edward FitzGerald of Cleveland and Sharen Swartz Neuhardt of Yellow Springs. It is unclear what impact a fraud investigation would have on Ealy’s candidacy.
With the candidacy already certified, someone would have to file a challenge by 4 p.m. Friday in order to have Ealy removed from the May ballot, McClellan said.
Husted’s office also certified Republicans Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Libertarian Party candidate Charles R. Earl and running mate Sherry L. Clark.
Candidates for governor must have 1,000 valid signatures on nominating petitions, McClellan said.
Parts of 10 petitions circulated by Ealy and three other people contain suspicious signatures, including ones that appear to have been written by the same person, rather than the individuals whose names are listed, Harsman said. Many of the people whose signatures appear on the petitions are not registered voters, Harsman said. He said Ealy turned in petitions with a total of 1,321 names from Montgomery County.
Ealy could not be reached for comment.
“We don’t have an official comment on anything that is going on with Larry Ealy,” said Lauren Hitt, spokesperson for the Fitzgerald campaign.