Court: Secret Ballots for Public Business Violate State Law

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled governmental bodies can’t conduct public business through secret ballots.

The court sided Wednesday with the operator of the community newspaper MORE Bratenahl who sued the Cuyahoga County village of Bratenahl in 2016. That lawsuit claims the village council violated Ohio’s Open Meetings Act by voting through secret ballot to elect a councilmember as president pro tempore.

The court found that open meetings require that the public “have meaningful access” to deliberations that take place among a public body’s members, including being able to determine how participants vote.

Lower courts sided with the village, which argued it could determine its own voting rules and didn’t violate the statute since the winner was announced in open session.

Messages seeking comment were left for village officials.