The State ex rel. Keith
Lawrence County Board of Elections et al.
Submitted November 15, 2019
L. Davis III Co., L.L.C., and George L. Davis IV, for
A. Tieman, Scioto County Prosecuting Attorney, and Danielle
M. Parker and Margaret Apel-Miller, Assistant Prosecuting
Attorneys, as special prosecuting attorneys, for respondents.
1} This is an expedited election action in which
relator, Katrina D. Keith, seeks a writ of prohibition
requiring respondents, the Lawrence County Board of Elections
and its members (collectively, "the board"),
remove Samuel T. Cramblit II's name from the ballot and
prohibiting them from counting the votes he received as a
candidate for the office of Ironton mayor in the November 5,
2019 general election. Keith is Ironton's current mayor
and Cramblit's opponent in the election. She alleges that
the board should not have certified Cramblit's name to
the ballot because he does not meet the residency
qualification for the office under the city's charter.
Because the board did not exercise quasi-judicial power
regarding Cramblit's candidacy, Keith has failed to state
a claim in prohibition. We therefore dismiss her claim.
2} On August 7, 2019, Cramblit filed a petition with
the board to be a nonpartisan mayoral candidate in the
November 2019 general election. The board certified Cramblit
as a candidate on August 15.
3} On October 1, Keith notified the board that she
was challenging Cramblit's candidacy. She argued that
Cramblit is not qualified for the office because Ironton City
Charter 3.01 requires the mayor to have been "an elector
and resident of the City of Ironton, Ohio, for at least five
years preceding the election." She submitted documents
with her protest purporting to show that Cramblit voted in
Athens County on November 4, 2014 (five years and a day
before the November 2019 election) and that he registered to
vote in Lawrence County on February 16, 2016 (about three
years and nine months before the November 2019 election). On
October 22, the board determined that Keith's protest was
untimely and took no action on it.
4} On October 28, Keith filed this original action
seeking a writ of prohibition to compel the board to remove
Cramblit's name from the ballot and to prevent the board
from counting any votes he received at the November 2019
5} To be entitled to a writ of prohibition, Keith
must prove that the board exercised quasi-judicial power
without authority to do so and that she lacks an adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of the law. State ex rel.
Save Your Courthouse Commt. v. Medina, Ohio St.3d,
2019-Ohio-3737, N.E.3d, ¶ 23. Thus, "the first and
fundamental element" of her claim requires her to show
that the board exercised quasi-judicial power in placing (or
in keeping) Cramblit's name on the ballot. Id. .
at ¶ 26.
6} "Quasi-judicial authority is the power to
hear and determine controversies between the public and
individuals that require a hearing resembling a judicial
trial." State ex rel. Wright v. Ohio Bur. of Motor
Vehicles, 87 Ohio St.3d 184, 186, 718 N.E.2d 908 (1999).
A board of elections exercises quasi-judicial power when it
"conducts a protest hearing pursuant to statute."
Save Your Courthouse at ¶ 29. The board did not
conduct a protest hearing in this case; the board took no
action on Keith's protest after determining that it was
7} Keith nevertheless argues that the board's
inaction itself constituted an exercise of quasi-judicial
power, because it allowed Cramblit's name to remain on
the ballot. Although Keith cites State ex rel. Harbarger
v. Cuyahoga Cty. Bd. of Elections,75 Ohio St.3d 44, 661
N.E.2d 699 (1996), in support of this argument, that case
confirms that the board lacked authority to conduct
a hearing in this case. In Harbarger, a board of
elections scheduled a protest hearing even though the protest
had been filed after the applicable statutory deadline and
after the deadline for an elections board to invalidate a
petition sua ...