Anti-fracking Group Seeks Elections Board Records

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A group that was unsuccessful in getting an anti-fracking measure on the November ballot in Athens has filed a public records request with the Athens County Board of Elections, hoping to get information to rewrite the ballot initiative for 2014, according to Richard McGinn, chairman of the Bill of Rights Committee.

McGinn said the committee wants to learn why the elections board rejected the ballot issue, so that the 2014 measure can be rewritten in a way that will pass muster with the board and get on the ballot.

“They (the elections board) made a judgment without giving an explanation, and that’s not fair,” McGinn said.

On Aug. 15, the elections board held a hearing and upheld an objection that some Athens residents filed against the proposed ballot issue. The ballot initiative, if approved by voters, would have banned oil and gas well fracking and associated practices within Athens and its jurisdiction. The board’s action meant the issue will not be on the November ballot in Athens.

The attorney for the Bill of Rights Committee later requested that the elections board explain, in writing, its reasons for rejecting the ballot issue. Attorney Sean Kelly asked that the board explain which of the four arguments made against the ballot issue were upheld, and why.

Last month, the elections board responded that it knew of no legal requirement to respond in the way Kelly had requested, adding that the board “agreed to let the decision speak for itself.”

The board, with its written response to Kelly, included a transcript of the Aug. 15 hearing.

“Each member has in his or her own mind the specific reason for voting to sustain the objection of the protestors and rejecting the (ballot) petition,” the board’s letter stated. “However, the board remains unified in its decision, which was based upon the law recited by our counsel Keller Blackburn and agreed upon by both you and (your co-counsel John) Lavelle.”

The Bill of Rights Committee was not satisfied with that response and on Monday filed a public records request with the elections board.

The request seeks all documents and communications generated or received by the elections board since April 4 that relate to the Bill of Rights Committee’s proposed ballot initiative. April 4 is the date the proposed initiative language was filed with the Athens City Auditor’s Office.