In a story on the front page of today's issue of The Leader-Union, we report that the attempt by two incumbent aldermen in St. Elmo to stay on the ballot in April has failed. The question that remains is this: Did the municipal electoral board make the right decision?
Board members correctly cited case law in saying that they could rule only on the objections filed by Lyle Haslett and Rita Davis on nominating petitions filed by Lloyd Carson and Jayson Porter. They agreed with the objectors’ attorney that they could rule only on the legality of the objections, and not on any outside factors related to them, including how and where the objectors received their information.
That’s not the answer that many of those in the sizeable crowd in the Phillips Building last Friday night wanted to hear, but the electoral board based its decision on case law. The board stated in its ruling that, going by the letter of the law, Carson and Porter failed to meet one of the legal requirements by not obtaining the correct number of signatures on their petitions.
It appears that the electoral board hearing was not the place where Carson and Porter, and their attorney, Don Sheafor, could present their arguments for remaining on the ballot.
Sheafor could not get into evidence allegations that Mayor Larry Tish, who served as the chairman of the electoral board, was a key player in the effort to get the two incumbents off of the ballot.
Carson and Porter now appear to have a couple of options – pursue a costly appeal of the board’s ruling in court or get back into the election by becoming certified as write-in candidates.
The objection to the petitions filed by Carson and Porter is just the latest in a long saga of conflicts that many residents say has made St. Elmo “the laughing stock of Fayette County.”
That saga has created a huge division among the residents of the community, a division that at this point seems impossible to get rid of.
It seems a bit beyond ironic that objections were filed to petitions filed by Carson and Porter. Since the 2009 election, there have been a number of tie votes among the aldermen, with Tish called to cast the tie-breaking votes; in such instances, Carson and Porter have consistently been among those voting in the losing minority.
Sheafor attempted to get into evidence that someone had alerted all candidates but Carson and Porter that the information they received from the county about the number of signatures required was incorrect, and that they needed more signatures than what was listed on their informational packet.
Sheafor also attempted to subpoena for the hearing one candidate who said she received that new information from the mayor. The attorney for Haslett and Davis objected, and his objection was sustained by the electoral board.
Sheafor believes that he would be able to argue in court, in appealing the board’s decision, allegations about the creation of the objections to the nominating petitions. Carson and Porter have just a few days to decide whether they want to go that route.
In our mind, Carson and Porter should, at the very least, get back in the race by becoming write-in candidates. That way, the people will have an opportunity to decide whom they want to represent them.