By Whitney Vickers
XENIA — After a public hearing about the CEMEX rezoning issue Thursday, two Greene County Board of Elections members will rule whether the issue will appear on the March ballot.
Individuals opposing the CEMEX property rezone from agricultural use to mining use collected a number of signatures during the fall months in hopes of allowing Fairborn citizens to vote on the matter, after city council voted to pass the rezoning measure in August.
Doris Adams and Ann Gerard will determine whether or not the matter will appear on the March 15 ballot, after more than 50 signatures appearing on the referendum petition were called into question.
Individuals opposing rezoning collected more than 1,000 signatures, 722 are required place the measure on the ballot. At the time, the Greene County Board of Elections verified 731, which is nine more than what was required. However, upon verifying the collected names appearing on the referendum, the Greene County Board of Elections was asked to re-examine the signatures. Board of elections officials reached out to the county prosecutor’s office to ask if this was permissible, which sparked the need for the referendum protest hearing as verifying signatures a second time is not allowable by law.
Individuals who signed the petition as well as those who circulated it were called to the witness stand for varying reasons, such as one gentleman who couldn’t remember who approached him and asked to offer his signature for the petition. The individual who approached his door said she did so, and said the gentleman asked her to sign his name for him as his health prevented him from doing so. However, two similar-sounding letters within his name were confused, but his signature was still verified.
A forensic document examiner testifying said it was “highly probable” that two of the signatures were autographed by the same person based on the downward stroke, curvature and similarities of particular letters.
“In my opinion is it highly probable that it was one individual writing both names,” forensic document examiner Vickie Willard said. “So in looking at the name … you have the same letters, ‘R, E, T,’ you would find in [the other name]. Looking at the way the ‘R’ is formed, it doesn’t clearly show the ‘R’, but you can see that it has a little curvature as opposed to a capital ‘R’ so you have a similar design. People make ‘E”s pretty much the same, but again you have the same format and similar curvature in the ‘E.’ In the last name, both the [letters] start with a down stroke, the writer moves behind the down stroke … and the curvature is very similar.”
Greene County Board of Elections Director Llyn McCoy offered an explanation as to how signatures are verified. She said it is a subjective matter, as individuals working within the Greene County Board of Elections compare the signature on the petition to the voter registration.
“I always caution people that we are not handwriting experts,” McCoy said. “Generally we look [and see] if there is something that we can identify that does match the person’s signature.”
Adams and Gerard said they would notify the public when a decision is reached.
Whitney Vickers can be reached by calling her directly at 937-502-4532, or on Twitter @wnvickers. For more content online, visit our website or like our Facebook page.