The State ex rel. Stevens
Fairfield County Board of Elections.
Submitted March 22, 2018
McTigue & Colombo, L.L.C., Donald J. McTigue, J. Corey
Colombo, Derek S. Clinger, and Ben F.C. Wallace, for relator.
Kyle Witt, Fairfield County Prosecuting Attorney, and Joshua
S. Horacek and Amy Brown Thompson, Assistant Prosecuting
Attorneys, for respondent.
1} In this expedited election case, relator, Jason
Stevens, seeks a writ of mandamus to compel respondent, the
Fairfield County Board of Elections, to issue a certificate
of nomination to certify Stevens's name for placement on
the May 8, 2018 primary-election ballot as a candidate for
election to the Ohio Democratic Party State Central
Committee. For the reasons set forth below, we grant the
2} Stevens filed a petition to appear on the May 8
primary ballot as a candidate for the Ohio Democratic Party
State Central Committee, as Member for the 20th Senate
District. On February 15, 2018, the board voted three to
zero, with one abstention, to deny Stevens access to the
ballot because, according to the meeting minutes, "his
voting history did not show he was a member of the Democratic
3} The board sent Stevens a letter, which was dated
February 22 but was not received by Stevens until February
26, informing him of its decision. The letter explained the
board's decision by stating:
[Y]ou are not affiliated with a political party. Because of
your unaffiliated status you are unable to run as a candidate
for the partisan position of State Central Committee Member.
4} On February 27, Stevens asked the board to
reconsider its decision. The board indicated that it would
consider the request at its March 5 meeting. On that date,
Stevens's counsel presented two affidavits to the board,
one by Stevens and the other by N. Zachary West, general
counsel of the Ohio Democratic Party, and, according to the
minutes from that meeting, "explained why [Stevens and
West] felt that Mr. Stevens was a Democratic Party
member." The board adj ourned without taking any action
on the request for reconsideration.
5} On March 8, 2018, Stevens filed this complaint
for a writ of mandamus against the board of elections.
Because this case was filed within 90 days of the May 8
election, the parties submitted briefs in accordance with the
accelerated schedule for expedited elections cases in
Standard of review
6} To be entitled to a writ of mandamus, a relator
must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, (1) a clear
legal right to the requested relief, (2) a clear legal duty
on the part of the respondent to provide it, and (3) the lack
of an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law.
State ex rel. Waters v. Spaeth, 131 Ohio St.3d 55,
2012-Ohio-69, 960 N.E.2d 452, ¶ 6, 13. Given that the
May 2018 election is imminent, Stevens does not have an
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law. See
State ex rel. Stewart v. Clinton Cty. Bd. of Elections,
124 Ohio St.3d 584, 2010-Ohio-1176, 925 N.E.2d 601, ¶ 17
(holding that the relator had no adequate remedy at law
because the election was imminent at the time the county
elections board denied the relator's protest); State
ex rel. Finkbeiner v. Lucas Cty. Bd. of Elections, 122
Ohio St.3d 462, 2009-Ohio-3657, 912 N.E.2d 573, ¶ 18
7} When reviewing the decision of a county board of
elections, the standard is whether the board engaged in fraud
or corruption, abused its discretion, or acted in clear
disregard of applicable legal provisions. State ex rel.
Holwadel v. Hamilton Cty. ...