When the Ohio Secretary of State's Office learned that members of the Trumbull County Board of Elections approved new procedures for staff handling candidate nominating petitions, the office stepped in quickly and ordered the board to immediately rescind the policy.
The board policy directed staff to look over the candidate's petitions when they filed for ''any glaring issues,'' show the candidate the mistake, explain why the petition cannot be accepted and give the candidate new petitions and directions.
Board chairman Mark Alberini, a Democrat, said after the board approved the policy in March that the review was a ''cursory glance'' to detect obvious mistakes on the petitions and that he felt it did not violate a directive by Secretary of State Jon Husted that prohibit's ''pre-checking'' petitions.
The 2011 order from Ohio's top elections official says boards of elections are not allowed to pre-check any petition to determine its validity and whether it's sufficient before it has been filed.
Alberini said last week because staff was not being asked to count signatures or determine the validity of the signatures - in other words, staff were not being asked to go over the petition ''with a fine tooth comb'' - the board believed the policy was sound.
But Husted's director of elections, Matthew M. Damschroder, believed the policy was contrary to Husted's directive and ordered the bi-partisan foursome in a letter to rescind the policy, which they did Tuesday.
Alberini said the board didn't have a problem with rescinding the policy. It was put it into place only to provide more service to candidates, he said.
The policy was the result of the board rejecting the petitions of a man wanting to run in the May 7 primary election because he didn't have enough valid signatures. He didn't have enough valid signatures because he didn't sign a part of his petition declaring he witnessed each signature, which meant multiple signatures were rejected.
That type of mistake is an example of what the board wanted to catch, but the responsibility of making sure nominating petitions are fit falls 100 percent on the candidate, who, by the way, are given much help already.
Candidates are given instructions at the board to help with filing petitions and a check-off list when the person files, provided as a courtesy so the person can double-check their paperwork for mistakes or omissions that could case their candidacy to be rejected.
There's also free publications from the secretary of state that provide guidance.
Rescinding the policy was the right move, but it shouldn't have taken the secretary of state's involvement for that to happen. In fact, the policy should have never been put into place.
It shifted to the board at least some of the candidate's responsibility to have proper petitions. Also, it created the possibility, if a worker accidentally overlooked any mistake the candidate made that results in disqualification, to blame the board.