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The State ex rel. Fleming v. Fox

Supreme Court of Ohio

September 3, 2019

The State ex rel. Fleming et al.
v.
Fox et al.

          Submitted August 28, 2019

          In Mandamus

          Terry J. Lodge, for relators.

          Katherine J. Zartman, Williams County Prosecuting Attorney; McTigue & Colombo, L.L.C., Donald J. McTigue, J. Corey Colombo, Derek S. Clinger, and Ben F.C. Wallace, for respondents.

          Dave Yost, Attorney General, Benjamin M. Flowers, Solicitor General, Michael J. Hendershot, Chief Deputy Solicitor General, and Jason D. Manion, Deputy Solicitor General, urging denial of the writ for amicus curiae Ohio Attorney General.

          Chad A. Endsley, Leah F. Curtis, and Amy M. Milam, urging denial of the writ for amici curiae Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Williams County Farm Bureau.

          PER CURIAM

         {¶ 1} In this expedited election case, relators, six Williams County electors, [1]seek a writ of mandamus to compel respondents, the Williams County Board of Elections and its members (collectively, "the board"), [2] to place a petition for a proposed county charter on the November 5, 2019 ballot. The board determined that the proposal was invalid after finding that it did not comply with Article X, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution, which governs county-charter proposals.

         {¶ 2} Relators' main argument is that the board impermissibly examined the substance of the proposed charter, when it should have determined only the sufficiency and validity of the petition and signatures. But we do not reach that issue. We deny the writ because relators had an adequate remedy at law.

         Background

         {¶ 3} On June 26, 2019, relators filed a petition with the board proposing the adoption of a county charter. There is no dispute that the petition contained a sufficient number of valid signatures for placement on the ballot. But on July 8, the board determined that the petition was invalid because it did not comply with Article X, Section 3. That same day, relators challenged the board's decision by requesting that the board bring an action in the Williams County Court of Common Pleas under R.C. 307.94. The board commenced the action, and the court of common pleas affirmed the board's decision on July 17.

         {¶ 4} On July 29, relators attempted to protest the board's decision to the secretary of state under R.C. 307.95(B). But on July 30, the board notified relators that it would not accept the protest or forward it to the secretary of state because relators already had elected to pursue an action in the common pleas court. On August 2, relators asked the board to reconsider its refusal to accept the protest. But on August 5, the board again refused to accept the protest.

         {¶ 5} On August 9, relators filed this original action seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the board to certify ...


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