The Ohio Secretary of State has rejected Ashtabula County Democratic Party Chairman Eli Kalil's appointment to the county Board of Elections.
The Board of Elections is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. In August, Democrat Luanne Laakso announced her resignation after serving on the board for 14 years.
The political party the retiring board member belonged to gets to appoint a successor, and the Secretary of State appoints the recommended candidate, unless it is believed the candidate would not be a competent member of the board, according to the Ohio Revised Code.
In Ohio, it is common practice to have the county party chair be a member of the Board of Elections, Kalil said. Ashtabula County Republican Party Chair Charlie Frye is currently the director of the Board of Elections.
On Sept. 2, the Ashtabula County Democratic Party submitted paperwork to the Secretary of State's office to appoint Kalil to the Board of Elections. The vote was unanimous, Kalil said.
In a letter dated Oct. 9, the appointment was rejected, citing allegations of voter fraud that were leveled against Kalil in 2016.
"Any and all such allegations must be taken very seriously," Secretary of State Frank LaRose said in a letter announcing the decision. "These troubling accusations raise serious questions of the candidate's integrity and competence to serve in this capacity."
LaRose went on to claim that appointing Kalil would diminish public confidence in the election.
Kalil provided a copy of a letter, written by former Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci, which stated that there is insufficient evidence to support filing charges. In October 2016, Iarocci said there was absolutely no evidence to support a criminal proceeding.
Iarocci, now Conneaut Municipal Judge, declined to comment Monday.
The charges stemmed from an incident in which a woman came into the Democratic Party headquarters in 2016, seeking to update her boyfriend's voter registration, Kalil said. She was provided paperwork and told to return it within 10 days to comply with state laws, Kalil said.
Kalil claims the woman returned the paperwork late and was given a new copy to have her boyfriend fill out, and returned with the dates on the original form whited out.
The woman then filed a complaint claiming that Kalil used white out to alter the date, Kalil said.
Kalil denied the allegations.
In a Sheriff's report from the incident provided by Kalil, he stated that no "white out" was kept in the office, to avoid such allegations.
"In 2016, when this all happened, it so happened that this was around the time that Donald Trump was coming to the SPIRE, and everything Donald Trump was saying around the country was that there was massive amounts of voter fraud everywhere," Kalil said.
"So they were trying to play this national narrative that 'look voter fraud even exists in Ashtabula County, and the individual who's working on the [Hillary] Clinton campaign is the one perpetrating it.'"
According to the Ohio Revised Code, the Democratic Party could ask the Ohio Supreme Court to order LaRose to make the appointment. The burden of proving that Kalil is qualified would fall to the Democratic Party, according to the ORC.
The Ashtabula County Democratic Party's Executive Committee will be meeting later this week to decide what action to take, Kalil said. The concern now is that, whether the party seeks an order from the Supreme Court or submits a new candidate, a second Democrat will not be appointed to the board before the November election, he said.
"The sad part is Secretary LaRose isn't obligated to fill that seat before election day, and that could put all of our voters at a very serious risk, having a lopsided Board of Elections board," Kalil said.
The party has to choose between taking its case to the Supreme Court or attempting to appoint someone else to the board.
Kalil said previous appointments have taken three to four weeks to be approved by the Secretary of State's office. Previous board member and director Duane Feher's appointment took two and a half weeks, Kalil said.
"I want to put someone in the board seat, whether that be myself or another qualified elector. I want to put them in there so we have equal representation on election day," Kalil said.
Calls to Frye for comment were not returned Monday.