COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – The Ohio Supreme Court declined Thursday to overturn the results of a Republican primary election in favor of a losing candidate.
Melanie Leneghan, a Republican from Delaware County, cast doubt on the results of the May 8, 2016, election for the 12th Congressional District after Troy Balderson, a state senator from Zainesville, won by 653 votes. In addition to flagging Balderson’s share of the vote in his home county of Muskingum as suspiciously high, Leneghan accused officials in 16 county precincts of having prematurely opened ballot containers without giving her notice.
Claiming that she would have beaten Balderson by almost 1,400 votes had the ballots been excluded, Leneghan petitioned to be declared the winner.
The Ohio Supreme Court shot her down 6-1 Thursday, however, finding that Leneghan did not prove that any election irregularities affected the outcome.
The 17-page unsigned decision states that, even if officials opened ballot boxes prematurely, that alone did not “affect anything.” Leneghan had to demonstrate more evidence, the ruling states, “such as stuffing the ballot box with fraudulent Balderson votes or discarding legitimate Leneghan votes.”
“Rather, the amended complaint alleges that the original canvas of votes in May showed a suspiciously large vote tally in favor of Balderson,” the decision continues. “That result certainly could not have been caused by the premature opening of the ballot containers before the recount.”
The official recount was done in public, and it would have been immediately apparent to Leneghan and her supporters if the results were markedly different from the results reported shortly after the primary, the court noted.
Judge Terrence O’Donnell dissented but said he also would have dismissed Leneghan’s complaint. Unlike the majority, however, he would have done so because she “failed to establish a clear legal right” to set the votes aside.
On Aug. 7, Balderson squeezed past Democrat Danny O’Connor in a tightly contested special election for a traditionally conservative seat vacated by Republican Pat Tiberi.
Leneghan did not immediately respond to a request for comment through her campaign website. Muskingum County Board of Elections and Balderson did not immediately respond to requests for comment either.