The Trumbull County Board of Elections has a new procedure that instructs office staff what to do when handling nominating petitions when candidates file to run for election.
It ''takes the checklist one step further,'' said board chairman Mark Alberini. The check-off list is given to candidates as a courtesy before they officially file so they can double check their paperwork for errors or omissions that could cause their candidacy to be rejected.
Every person who files petitions gets one. It's signed by the candidate and kept with their petitions.
The new policy goes one step further, requiring the staff member who accepts the petition to look it over, front and back ''for any glaring issues,'' show the candidate the mistake, explain why the petition cannot be accepted and give the candidate new petitions and directions.
If the worker finds the circulator's statement is incomplete, they've been instructed to have the candidate, if the candidate circulated that portion, to complete it. If another person passed around the petition, that person would then have to complete it before the petition can be filed.
The circulator's statement should be signed by the circulator to attest that the person witnessed each signature.
Alberini said the workers aren't being asked to check the validity or number of signatures (that would violate a directive from Secretary of State Jon Husted prohibiting the practice of ''pre-checking'' petitions), but rather a ''cursory glance'' to detect obvious mistakes.
Alberini said the policy doesn't shift the candidate's responsibility to make sure his / her petitions are complete to the elections board.
The onus, ''100 percent of the onus,'' to make sure the petition requirements are met is still with the candidate, Alberini said.
''We're simply making policy, procedure to make sure we visually scan these petitions to make sure specific, certain fields are completed,'' Alberini said.
The new policy is the result of the board rejecting the petitions of Mark Zuppo, who had to filed to run for treasurer of Girard. The board on Feb. 14 rejected Zuppo's candidacy because he didn't have enough valid signatures. Zuppo didn't have enough valid signatures because he didn't sign a part of his petition declaring he witnessed each signature.
Mistakes like this should be caught, but by the candidate, who in addition to being handed the check-off list, is given instructions at the board to help with filling out petitions and collecting signatures. Plus, the secretary of state's office has available to candidates uniform guidance in several publications that are free.
This policy relaxes the candidate's responsibility and opens the door for candidates to point the finger back at the elections board if a worker accidentally overlooks the candidate error that results in disqualification.
Husted is urging Ohioans to use the ''spring forward'' as a reminder to not only replace the batteries in the smoke detectors and change their clocks, but to check their voter registrations and change their address if it's needed.
The easy task ''will ensure voters can participate in this year's local elections with ease,'' according to a news release from his office.
The most common reason Ohio voters are made to vote a provisional ballot rather than a regular ballot is because they have moved and not updated their address, according to the office.