YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The Mahoning County Board of Elections voted on Monday to accept petitions from people running for office. Though most were approved, there were issues with others — one will be referred to the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office for investigation.

The board of elections approved most of the petitions at one time if they met all of the qualifications. Those with issues were debated and ruled on individually.

The board rejected the petition for Dionne Dowdy-Lacey, who wished to run for First Ward councilperson in Youngstown. Members of the board say they believe that eight of the 25 needed signatures appear to be signed by the same person.

“Signatures 11 through 19 appear to be by the same person — fraudulent signatures,” said Tom McCabe, board director.

In the meeting, board members said the law states the board cannot invalidate a petition solely on fraudulent signatures unless the circulator knowingly allows it.

“I think the same person signed those signatures, and if we allow one candidate to do it without recourse, then what do we do in the future?” said Joyce Kale-Pesta, elections board member.

On Wednesday, Dowdy-Lacey released the following statement on the matter:

“I regret any confusion on the part of my team in gathering signatures, and I take responsibility for it. Any mistakes were not intentional – they were the result of trying to get as many new people involved in the election process as possible, many who were not familiar with the process. Regardless, we have a sufficient number of signatures to get on the ballot, and I look forward to discussing the many important issues facing the City of Youngstown and the First Ward. That’s what my campaign will focus on.”

The board will be referring this matter to the sheriff’s office for investigation.

“I think it’s incumbent upon this board and us to be completely transparent in enforcing these rules to make a referral,” said David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

After further review, the board approved petitions for the following:

  • Dominic Leone III, running for Struthers Municipal Court Judge
  • Ra’cole Taloan, running for Youngstown Second Ward Council Member