Xenia City Council President Michael Engle (left) and Xenia Councilman Will Urschel

Greene County elections office ‘error’ leads to protest in Xenia council race

Four seats on Xenia’s City Council will be up for election as Councilman Dale Louderback has announced he is not seeking re-election.

A protest hearing is scheduled for Friday morning for the Greene County elections board to decide whether incumbent candidates — Xenia Council President Michael Engle and Councilman Will Urschel — will remain on the ballot.

The hearing comes after citizens filed protests with the elections board that claim the two incumbents did not gather enough signatures to be on the ballot.

Other candidates for the November race are Councilman Edgar Wallace, former Councilman Thomas Scrivens and challenger Rebekah Dean, who is Councilman Levi Dean’s sister. 

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Residents are challenging the candidacies of two incumbent Xenia City Council members, claiming the two should not be allowed on the ballot.

A hearing is scheduled Friday in a courtroom at the Greene County Courthouse to hear the protests against the petitions submitted by Xenia Council President Michael Engle and Councilman Will Urschel.

Engle, who is seeking a third consecutive election bid, and Urschel, who was appointed to serve the remaining term of the seat vacated by Thomas Scrivens, were among five candidates whose petitions were certified by the Greene County Board of Elections on Aug. 19.

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Protests were filed by two residents against Engle’s and Urschel’s petitions, claiming they did not have sufficient number of valid signatures to get on the ballot.

Ohio law requires city council candidates to have 50 valid signatures, but Xenia’s charter stipulates that candidates for council acquire 75 valid signatures.

Engle turned in 74 signatures, and 72 were deemed valid; Urschel turned in 84 signatures and 68 were deemed valid, according to their petitions on file with the board of elections office.

Those petitions were presented to the board as valid because of a “staff error,” according to Llyn McCoy, elections board director.

Board Chairman John Caupp said the petitions in question were never “red-flagged” by elections staff members. Elections staff presented the cover sheet of the petitions in question, and the required number of 75 signatures was not there.

“When we certify, we have legal counsel at the meeting. We take it upon ourselves that the staff has vetted the petitions and they meet the requirements,” Caupp said. “The only ones we deal with are the ones that have issues.”

Urschel said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the written instructions for petitioning he received from the board of elections office indicated that only 50 valid signatures were required in his race.

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He said he plans to argue against de-certifying his petition and if necessary will request a second opportunity to circulate petitions.

Engle did not return messages for comment on this story.

Three seats are up for election on the seven-member council.

The challengers who were certified to run in the race are Scrivens and Rebekah Dean.

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