The Ottawa County Election Board has ordered that a Miami woman’s name be stricken from a planned Feb. 10 Miami School Board election ballot.
Tommie Jean Ballard said she is preparing to seek legal counsel to assist her in defending her right to seek public office.
Ballard, a first-time candidate, filed a declaration for candidacy in the wrong ward — inadvertently filing in Miami’s Ward 4 rather than the Ward 3 district where she resides.
The board seat for Ward 3 is up for election in February due to the early exit of Dr. Mark McQuigg who resigned earlier this year.
The flawed declaration drew a petition of contestation from incumbent Ward 4 representative Donni Turner.
Turner and Ballard each testified in a Thursday hearing before the county election board.
Ballard told the three-member panel of election officials that she was advised by election board employee Connie Payton to file in Ward 4 after being questioned about whether or not she should be filing in the Turkey Ford Independent School District.
“I really feel like that was a prejudice statement,” Ballard said after Thursday’s hearing. “She assumed that because I look Indian, and I am Indian, that I needed to be filing in the Turkey Ford district.”
Payton, who has worked for the county election board fore 23 years, testified that she had no recollection of the conversation and emphasized that election board employees do not advise potential candidates.
“We take everything at face value,” Payton said.
Ballard said that, upon learning that she had made an error, she began to research her options.
After contacting the state election board and researching state statutes, Ballard said she was hopeful that the county election board would exercise its authority to amend her declaration of candidacy.
“I realize I made a mistake,” Ballard said. “But, I have learned through the state statutes that (Payton) should never have advised me of anything.”
Ballard said it was only fair that the board afford her an opportunity to seek office.
Election officials offered no discussion as the rendered their ruling that Ballard’s name would not be placed on the upcoming ballot, citing that it is the responsibility of the candidate to make sure that their filing is in order.
“We regret the errors that were made and sincerely hope that you consider running for office again,” said Barbara Smith who chaired Thursday’s hearing.
John Ballard, Tommie Ballard’s husband, asked the board to reconsider its decision and explained that it appeared that the right thing to do was to amend the declaration of candidacy and allow there to be a race in Ward 3.
“I think this all about saving the school district from having to pay for an election,” Tommie Ballard said. “But, I fully intend to run for office … I am seeking the advice of an attorney to determine what my options are.”