An Athens County Board of Elections investigation found that signs in an Albany voting location instructing voters not to cast their ballots for Democratic State Rep. candidate Katie O’Neill were a result of human error and did not impact the outcome of the election.
The Board of Elections will send a formal letter of apology to O’Neill for the error and will answer any questions her campaign has.
“It's pretty clear based on the evidence that (Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey) submitted that this didn't make a difference in the election, but that doesn't mean it's any less hurtful,” Board member John Haseley said. “We're all very sorry and regretful for what happened.”
The Board was first made aware of neon orange signs hung in voting booths at the Alexander Wellness Center saying votes for O’Neill would not be counted at 9 a.m. on election day. A final sign was missed in one of the six voting booths and was reported to have been taken down before 2 p.m. When poll workers discovered the signs, they were torn up and thrown away, Quivey said.
The signs were leftover from the primary election held earlier in the year, Quivey said. The Board of Elections initially voted to protest O’Neill’s candidacy because she did not live in the Ohio 94th district for the required time period, according to a previous Post report. The Ohio Supreme Court then ruled in April that O’Neill could run because she lived at multiple addresses a year before the election, including a friend’s residence in Athens County.
The day after the primary election, polling locations were instructed to take down and store polling booths, Quivey said. When set up teams at each polling location put booths up again for the election Nov. 3, they were instructed to take the signs down.
“Unfortunately, Alexander did not think of it, but I stand behind them by 100%,” Quivey said. “I feel that this was absolutely a mistake on their part.”
Board member Kate McGuckin said the signs were a result of human error and there is no evidence there was a deliberate attempt to sway the election.
During its investigation into the issue, the Board of Elections determined that the signage issue at the Alexander voting location was an isolated incident. Every other voting location manager for the 18 other voting precincts in Athens County signed affidavits saying the signs were not present on election day, Quivey said.
The Board of Elections then counted 883 votes that possibly could have been swayed by the signage in the voting booths, Quivey said. Even after adding those possible votes to O’Neill’s total of 19,946 votes in the 94th Ohio House District, State Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, had 30,709 votes, outpacing O’Neill by almost 10,000 votes. This assumes that without the signage, every vote at the Alexander Wellness Center location would have gone to O’Neill.
“I gave every benefit of the doubt I could to Ms. O’Neill because I felt that she deserved that— to have it explained,” Quivey said.