Bill of Rights Committee Protests Election Decision

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About 40 people gathered this morning in front of the Athens County Courthouse, protesting the Athens County Board of Elections’ rejection of a charter government proposal last week.

“It’s a matter of giving the people a voice, it’s giving people a vote on charter and on provisions of the charter.” said Dick McGinn, chairman of Athens County Bill of Rights Committee, “It is a matter of establishing a constitution, that is a charter, a constitution for the people of Athens County with provisions for how they want to be governed.”

The proposal by the committee was seeking to put the charter government issue on the November ballot, which gives local authority over environmental issues, including fracking, according to media reports.

Sara Quoia spoke as a “concerned citizen,” who said she was not affiliated with either side, but said she was concerned about environmental issues as well.

“I just want clean water for my children. I want our earth not polluted by out-of-state frack wastes,” Quoia said.

While discussing the next step after the protest, members of the Bill of Rights Committee were informed that the courthouse was holding a hearing with regard to the petition. Athens County Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy agreed that the hearing would be postponed to Wednesday, because committee members said they were not prepared and their attorney was not present.

The Board of Elections validated the signatures collected by the committee, but not the petition. The Deputy Director of Athens County Board of Elections Penny L. Brooks said “there’s not a lot of guidelines on what’s determining what’s valid and invalid on a charter petition.”

The rejection decision was made by the four members of the Board, Brooks said, and “now it’s going before the judge.”

Judge McCarthy will meeting members of Bill of Rights Committee and their attorney at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and make a determination by 4 p.m. on the same day.