Coss ruling puts Rhonemus on LC Board of Education


In a decision from Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss, filed Thursday, Stacie Rhonemus, a write-in candidate, was declared to have won a seat on the Lynchburg-Clay Board of Education from the Nov. 7, 2023, general election.

Initially, it was determined that Cathy Griffith, Becky Sanderson and Ashley Watson were the three candidates who won the available seats on the board.

However, according to court documents, 29 ballots in Highland County “on which the name of the contestor or a clear variation of her name was written but the oval was not darkened” were not counted by the Highland County Board of Elections.

The Lynchburg-Clay School District is located in Highland, Clinton and Brown counties, and Highland County residents make up by far the largest portion of the school district.

In Clinton County, there were two ballots for the write-in candidate without the oval darkened. There were no write-in votes cast in Brown County.

The Clinton County Board of Elections counted the two ballots with no oval darkened.

After the final recount of the election in all three counties, Ashley Watson received 616 votes and Stacie Rhonemus received 615 votes.

According to the court decision, “The fact that votes for the same office were counted differently by two different boards of election applying the same directives of the Ohio Secretary of State and the law of Ohio is clearly and convincingly an irregularity in the election process.”

Of the 29 contested Highland County ballots, two were not counted for Rhonemus in the court ruling because it could not be determined that the names written on the ballots were for her. Twenty-seven of the contested votes, however, were ruled by the court to count for Rhonemus, giving her a total of 642 votes in all three counties.

The decision by Coss specified that the finding “does not in any way imply that the Highland County BOE members and staff committed any misconduct. They were following the directives of the Ohio Secretary of State which implemented R.C. 3506.21.”

According to the decision, “Not counting write-in votes that contain a technical error yet clearly demonstrates the choice of those voters would be putting form over substance and undermines that principle.”

The final judgement constitutes certification of the election of Stacie Rhonemus to the Lynchburg-Clay Board of Education and cancels the election of Ashley Watson.

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.

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