Sarantou Issues Statement on Decision to Stop Contest-of-Election
(Toledo, OH) --- George Sarantou, longtime Toledo City Councilman and candidate for Lucas County Commissioner in 2010, issued the following statement today after dismissing his Contest-of-Election challenge in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
"Today I made the difficult but correct decision to stop my challenge to the Lucas County Commissioner election. I did so because I believe it is the right thing to do for the community and myself.
On election night, the Board of Elections announced that I led by 1376 votes. Three weeks later, after counting the provisional ballots from the election, the Board reversed those results and announced that Carol Contrada won the election by the thin margin of 193 votes.
Since that time, I have wanted to understand what happened, because the candidates, and more importantly the voters and the entire community, have the right to know how elections are handled and to be certain that the results are accurate and reliable. I asked the Board of Elections then to permit my representatives to review the provisional-ballot envelopes but was told they would not be made available. I tried other methods to find out what happened and to ensure that the provisional ballots were handled correctly, but the Board of Elections was steadfast in refusing my requests. After waiting to the last possible day, in the hope that the Board would change its mind, I filed my election contest. I said at the time, and it remains true, that I did so only because I wanted a fair and impartial review of the election, which the entire community deserves.
Even then, I had to fight the Board to gain access to the envelopes. Eventually, Judge Stacy Cook ruled that my team could see them, and we spent hundreds of hours reviewing them. We finished that work early this morning.
I have accomplished what I set out to from the beginning. I have been permitted to review the ballots. They show what I suspected --- The Board counted many ballots that should not have been counted and, in addition, there are hundreds of envelopes that did not comply with the law. We have reviewed all of the provisional envelopes, it is apparent that the system needs to be improved to ensure that provisional balloting does not undermine the integrity and reliability of our elections.
I believe in my heart that I won this election. But given the law on the subject, the only way I could show that in court would be to call individual voters to ask them how they voted, and I respect the rights of voters to vote privately, which is a hallmark of our democracy.
If I didn't choose that path, all I would accomplish by going forward would be to have the election vacated. In that event, Ms. Contrada would have been appointed County Commissioner by the Lucas County Democratic Party, because the law does not permit the Judge to order a new election.
While I think the public is entitled to know about its elections, I do not want to drag the community through a trial and contribute to the cynicism of the public about the political process, only to have that hollow result.
As I weighed my options, I concluded that the best thing for the community and me was to stop the contest.
I wish Carol Contrada the best in her role as County Commissioner, and I thank all of those who have supported me through this important process."
Thursday, February 03, 2011