AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s high court agreed Monday to hear arguments in a dispute over a decision by the state’s elections chief to block the reappointment of a powerful fellow Republican to a county elections board.
The Ohio Supreme Court has put Summit County Republican Chair Bryan Williams’ legal challenge to Secretary of State Frank LaRose on an expedited schedule.
The Summit County GOP alleges in its complaint that LaRose was attempting to “exact political retribution” using “inaccurate and incomplete” facts when he rejected Williams’ reappointment to another four-year term on the county Board of Elections March 3. The bipartisan board includes two Republicans and two Democrats.
The Akron Beacon Journal reports that LaRose had given the county party until Friday to give him another name for the seat, but party leaders instead got together and voted to sue.
In his letter, LaRose cited several issues with the way the local election board ran the 2020 election as evidence Williams is unqualified for the job. They included traffic jams during early voting, convicted felons improperly denied the right to vote and more than 700 deceased voters left on the rolls.
In a scathing legal statement, however, Williams alleged the reasons for LaRose’s action were personal, the newspaper reported.
He said LaRose, who lived in Summit County before being elected statewide and moving to Columbus, was angered by the party under Williams not having provided “the kind of political support for him that he believes should be provided by the Chair of the Republican Party of his home county.”
LaRose’s spokesperson, Maggie Sheehan, said the office is not commenting on the pending litigation. Asked about the dispute before litigation was filed, Sheehan cited the track record of storied former Summit County Republican Chair Alex Arshinkoff, who died in 2017.
“When Alex Arshinkoff led the Summit County GOP, they wouldn’t have looked the other way when dead people were left on the county voting rolls,” she said. “Clearly this isn’t Alex Arshinkoff’s Summit County GOP anymore.”
Williams is a former county election official, state school board member and state representative, as well as current vice president of the Ohio Republican Party’s state central committee. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine appointed him to the University of Akron board of trustees earlier this month for a term running through July 2029.