Just as the election committee of the Clintonville Area Commission was making headway in its efforts to increase interest and participation in the CAC election process, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic caused some chaos.

Commissioners approved temporary amendments to the CAC's election during a special meeting, held via videoconferencing April 9.

The changes, which reduce the number of verified resident signatures needed on a candidate's petition and adjust both voting dates and procedures, are made to align and expire with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home orders. The order is set to expire after May 1.

As of the original April 3 deadline for petitions, only one of four prospective candidates had been able to gather the required 50 signatures. The amended rules require only five signatures for a valid petition. With the change enacted, election committee chairwoman Ann Henkener presented candidates for seats in Districts 1, 2, 5 and 9, which are up for election this year.

The candidates are:

* District 1, David Vottero, current District 1 commissioner

* District 2, (currently represented by Khara Nemitz, who is not running) Josh Waller and Brian Peifer

* District 5 (vacant since the Feb. 21 resignation of Dana Bagwell), Brittany Boulton and Jessica Reback

* District 9, current commissioner and CAC chairman B.J. White.

White had been the only one of the six people running to gather 50 petition signatures.

All voting in the election will be done via mail-in ballot, also a change from previous election rules. Ballots must be requested by mail by Thursday, April 23. The requests should be sent to CAC, P.O. Box 14297, Columbus, 43214.

Ballots will be counted by Henkener and members of the election committee May 2. Counting will be live-streamed, Henkener said, and witnesses are invited.

The new commissioners are expected to be announced at the CAC's June 4 meeting for any districts with no outstanding contested results or other complaints.

"We were ready to hold this election, and we had made progress in the process and had interest among people who wanted to run," White said, adding that moving forward with the election with the amended rules was "in the community's best interest."

Commissioners lauded the efforts of Henkener and her committee.

Restrictions in place in response to coronavirus already had affected the election, forcing the commission to offer candidate packets online only rather than make them available at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, which has closed temporarily.

The efforts by the commission and its election committee to increase interest and participation in elections began prior to the 2019 CAC election process.

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