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Secret Ballot Voting Violates the Ohio Open Meetings Act

In the case of State ex rel. More Bratenahl v. Bratenahl, Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-3233, the Ohio Supreme Court held that public bodies may not take official action by secret ballot.

In this case, a city council voted on a new president pro tempore at a public meeting via secret ballot under the belief that the Ohio Open Meetings Act “is satisfied as long as the doors to the meeting space are unlocked and the public is permitted to sit in the same room as the council.” Bratenahl at ¶ 11. A community member initiated legal action against city arguing that the Ohio Open Meetings Act prohibits voting via secret ballots.

The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the community member and held that the Ohio Open Meetings Act renders “any resolution, rule, or formal action of any kind [* * *] invalid unless adopted in an open meeting of the public body” and that any vote is considered a formal action that must be open. Bratenahl at ¶ 8. The Ohio Supreme Court further found that this violation could not be cured even if the secret ballots were available as public records after the vote was taken.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is always changing like the Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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