Demonstration

Photo by GLENN WOJCIAK

Protestors (from left) Lynn Kemp, Mary Emhoff, Ellen Marrich, Kathie Jones and Jack Petrella demonstrate outside the Medina County Board of Elections. They said voters have been denied their right to decide if a county charter should be enacted and the NEXUS Pipeline they hoped to keep from being built will poison the atmosphere.

MEDINA – A small group of activists gathered outside the Board of Elections offices Nov. 1 to protest the fact that an initiative to create a charter form of government in Medina County does not appear on the ballot.

Early voters entering the Board of Elections that day were being denied their right to vote on the charter issue, according to Kathie Jones, one of the protestors.

Jones and others in the organization Sustainable Medina County circulated petitions to have the charter issue placed on the ballot. However, members of the Board of Elections voted not to certify the petitions and allow the issue to appear on the November ballot.

More than 17,000 voters had signed the charter petitions and protestors used chalk to make hash marks on the pavement outside the BOE Nov. 1 to represent each of those petition signers.

“Democracy is being denied in Medina County,” said Jones. “All those who signed the petitions should have had the right to vote on this issue and all the other voters in the county have also been denied that right.”

The Board of Elections voted 4-1 to deny certification of the charter petitions on the recommendation of Assistant County Prosecutor Mike Lyons, who cited several technical issues with the proposed charter and a new Ohio law that seems to empower boards of elections to reject initiative petitions on their apparent merits and not solely on the number of valid signatures contained on petitions.

It was the third straight year that Sustainable Medina County had gathered enough signatures to put a charter issue on the ballot only to have the issue killed because its constitutionality was challenged by either the board of elections or the Ohio Secretary of State.

Although the petitioners have lost repeated appeals in the courts, a recent ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court upheld an appeal from the City of Bowling Green to have a similar charter amendment placed on the ballot in that city.

In that case, the court ruled that parts of the new state law are unconstitutional, and boards of election may not make legal evaluations on matters like the proposed county charter.

Jones said she does not know if Sustainable Medina County will try again to adopt a county charter but the group is not going away.

“I don’t know what our next steps will be but we’re not forgetting about this and we’ll be heard from again,” she said.

Protestor Mary Emhoff said the reason Sustainable Medina County was formed was to oppose construction of the NEXUS Pipeline, which she considers a threat to the health and safety of county residents.

Construction on the pipeline and a compressor station in Guilford Township is expected to begin in coming days.

A retired respiratory therapist, Emhoff said 1 or 2 percent of the natural gas passing through the pipeline will probably leak into the atmosphere causing immediate health risks to the young, old and those with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

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