ELYRIA - Independent Tim Quinn, who was removed from the November ballot for voting as a Democrat in the May primary, has filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court in a move he said is a direct attack to the two-party political system in Lorain County that is restricting the voting rights of residents.
Quinn wants the high court to compel the Lorain County Board of Elections to place him back on the ballot of the Nov. 8 general election. By filing in Columbus, Quinn said he will not have a court available to him for an appeal and will be ready to accept whatever ruling is handed down.
"Time is of the essence," he said Friday from his Howard Street home in Elyria. "I don't want to take the chance of dealing with appeal after appeal only to watch the election pass me by."
In the lawsuit filed by Quinn's attorney Gerald W. Phillips of Avon Lake, Quinn maintains his removal from the ballot was unconstitutional.
Lorain County Board of Elections Director Paul Adams has said that according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office, independent candidates aren't supposed to vote in partisan primaries after filing to run as independents. They are also barred from being members of a political party's central or executive committees when they declare themselves independents.
The idea is that independent candidates are supposed to make a good-faith effort to show their independence from the two major political parties, and that includes not voting in partisan primaries after they file.
Quinn filed to run for mayor a day before he voted in the primary.
Quinn has said he cast a ballot for Democrat Scott Serazin in the race to replace retiring Elyria Law Director Terry "Pete" Shilling. Serazin's opponent was Democrat Jay Grunda. There was no Republican primary and there are no independents in the race.
"The primary was the election for that race," Quinn said.
Quinn previously has run as an independent candidate, both in 2007 in a run for mayor and in 2009 when he ran for an at-large Council seat.
Quinn said he voted in the Democratic primary two years ago and no one raised the concern. He also voted in the primary in 2007 when he last ran for mayor as an independent.
Adams has said previously that the rule barring independent candidates from voting in partisan primaries wasn't established until after Quinn had already been certified to the 2007 ballot. He said he can't speak to the 2009 run because he wasn't with the elections board at the time.
Phillips said the case has the potential to break new ground.
"This legal action will be a case setting precedent in the state of Ohio," he said. "This lawsuit is all about protecting (Quinn's) constitutional right of ballot access and the constitutional rights of the electorate to have open, free, competitive elections and meaningful choices of candidates to choose from, that is the cornerstone of our democracy and what we celebrate on Independence Day."
The November race for mayor will be between Republican Ray Noble and Democrat Holly Brinda unless Quinn is returned to the ballot. Brinda did not return calls for comment Friday.
Noble said he would like to see Quinn in the race.
"It would be an interesting race with an independent, Republican and a Democrat," he said. "All three of us are passionate about doing the best we can for Elyria. I have lived in Elyria since before (former Mayor Mike) Keys' time, and I have never seen three more passionate candidates. All three of us should have a chance to run."
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.