AVON LAKE — The Lorain County Board of Elections has launched an investigation into the signatures on petitions submitted to get a Sunday liquor sales measure on the ballot for an Avon Lake bar.
Elections board Director Paul Adams said some of the petitions, submitted on behalf of the Kenilworth Tavern II, contained signatures that don’t match the signatures of voters on file with the board.
“It appears as though there was one person who signed for at least 30 people,” Adams said.
Under state law, no one but the voter whose name is used is allowed to sign petitions to get a measure or candidate on the ballot, Adams said.
Those circulating petitions must sign the documents, acknowledging that they personally witnessed the individual voters sign the petitions. Violating that rule, the petitions note, is elections falsification, which is a felony.
Even if the questionable signatures had been valid, Adams said, the bar, also known as K II, wouldn’t have come anywhere close to the 213 signatures that would have been necessary to get the liquor issue on the ballot.
By the time the elections board discounted the signers who weren’t registered voters, didn’t live in the same precinct as the bar or were illegible, there were only 34 valid signatures left, Adams said.
Paul Kriaris, who manages the bar and signed the petitions as the circulator, said he turned in more than 300 signatures.
Kriaris said he had rushed in the days leading up to the Aug. 8 filing deadline to get enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot.
He said he and his bartenders went out to gather the necessary signatures. He acknowledged that he sometimes allowed people to sign petitions for other family members, but he said there was no intent to commit a crime.
Kriaris said he wasn’t aware that he couldn’t allow people to sign for family members.
“I didn’t think it would be a big deal,” he said.
The problem, Kriaris said, was that Avon Lake redrew its ward boundaries this year, and he realized that many of those who signed his petitions weren’t valid. That, he said, led to his last-minute scramble to get enough signatures.
“I lost a lot of signatures,” he said.
Adams said the issue of the new city wards and voting precincts is an entirely separate issue from allowing someone else to sign for a voter on a petition.
He said the elections board will meet again next week to discuss the results of the investigation and decide whether it should be forwarded to county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office for possible criminal charges.
“It’s a serious issue,” Adams said.
Kriaris said he wasn’t aware of the investigation or that felony charges could potentially be filed.
He said he still wants to get the liquor issue on the ballot so his bar, which has been open for around six months, can serve hard liquor on Sundays.
“We’ll just retry and start again,” he said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.