Springfield leaders want to avoid wasting money on special elections

Race with one candidate cost hundreds of thousands, took focus from presidential election.

A special election with just one candidate on the ballot cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some state lawmakers are trying to prevent that from ever happening again.

Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, hopes passage of a new state law will avoid what he called the future waste of taxpayer money on special elections that involve just one candidate on the ballot.

The proposal, which Koehler co-sponsored, arose last year when Democratic 8th District candidate Corey Foister dropped out of the race. A special election was required to pick a replacement, but only one Democrat, Steven Fought, stepped forward to run.

Clark County Board of Elections Director Jason Baker said the resulting Sept. 13 special election was mandated by law, and local boards had no choice.

That one election, with just one candidate’s name on it, cost taxpayers $340,814.65. In Clark County alone it cost the board $65,978.13, though within a month the state reimbursed Clark County and other counties in the 8th District — Butler, Darke, Miami and Preble — for the cost of the special election.

Baker said cost was not the only problem. The special election was a big distraction for the Board of Elections as the staff was preparing for the November general election.

“It caused a lot of stress for the staff. There were longer work days that were needed at the time. They had to be done, and it’s just another hump we had to go over to get November up and running,” Baker said.

Turnout for the September special primary election was extremely light, and in 20 of the 90 precincts around Clark County, no one showed up to vote, according to Baker.

Taxpayers like Carolyn Clifton of Springfield are very critical of the law that required the election.

“I think that’s typical of government. There’s a lot of waste and we’ve got to make changes,” Clifton said.

Koehler called the September special election “a perfect storm” of a candidate dropping out before an election and at the time local election boards were preparing for the presidential vote. Under current state law, had the former candidate, Foister, dropped out just a few weeks later, the local Democratic party would have picked his replacement.

The proposal to fix the one-candidate special election, HB18, was introduced with the start of the new legislative term. Koehler said he is optimistic it will win approval.

“I think we will fix it and it will be done. We may never need it again. Maybe this perfect storm will never happen again, but if it does, we want to say we did something about it,” Koehler said.

Warren Davidson, R-Troy, won the seat in November, easily beating Fought and replacing former House Speaker John Boehner.

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