Hundreds of thousands of signatures for each issue were dropped off to the Ohio Secretary Of State’s Office on July 5, putting the office straight to work.
“We stamp them with kind of a serial number so we can track all of that,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R-Ohio) said. “We take down our total of the total number of signatures.”
LaRose said once tabulations on the front end are finished, the signatures were sent to the county boards of election for validation.
“We are really strict on chain of custody, that bipartisanship of every election administration,” LaRose said. “So that means if a county was coming down to pick up their boxes of signatures, it’s a Republican and a Democrat in a van driving down here.”
Some county boards of elections received more than 100,000 signatures for verification, like Franklin County in Columbus, which had more than 130,000 to validate. Aaron Sellers at the Franklin County Board of Elections said it took about 100 hours to determine which signatures are valid by comparing them to their database.
“Some of the reasons a petition signature would be invalidated would be they signed in Franklin County but they’re a registered voter in Delaware County,” Seller said. “They may not be registered at all in our database, or we can’t read it.”
Sellers said they tend to be lenient, but fake signatures typically “stand out tremendously.”
“We’re looking for letters, obviously people’s signatures change throughout the years, I know mine has, but you’re looking for a specific letter that’s similar to what’s been provided on the petition,” Sellers said.
Sellers said there is always more than one set of eyes on each petition form to ensure accuracy.
Once the county board of elections is done, they send them back to the secretary of state’s office so the verified signatures can be tabulated.
“If there is a shortfall in the number of signatures that the petitioners need, they get a period of time to make up for that,” LaRose said. “It’s called a cure period.”
That cure period is 10 days. If the group does have the proper number of signatures, there will be a ballot board meeting to certify language and start getting November ballots set.
“We are duty bound to follow the law, regardless of how our personal feelings or politics lay out and to make sure we follow this process, and that’s exactly what our office did, that’s exactly what all 88 county boards of elections are doing,” LaRose said. “Ohioans can trust it’s an honest process and the petitioners either have the valid signatures or they don’t. It’s a very binary thing.”
County boards of elections have until Thursday at 5 p.m. to return signatures back to the secretary of state’s office, then the secretary of state has five days to determine whether each group met the signature threshold.