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Candidates Desiring to Change Names Must Comply with Declaration of Candidacy and Petition Statutory Mandates

In the case of State ex rel. Gold v. Washington Cty. Bd. of Elections, Slip Opinion No. 2023-Ohio-1051, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the plain and unambiguous language of R.C. 3513.06 mandates that a mayoral candidate, who had a legal change of name within five years immediately preceding the filing of a declaration of candidacy, must include, immediately following the candidate’s present name, the candidate’s former names on both the declaration of candidacy and petition.

In this case, the mayoral candidate argued that (1) the candidate did not intend to gain an advantage in the election by failing to include the former name; (2) while the candidate legally changed the present name within the five years of filing a declaration of candidacy, the candidate had been “using” the present name for common law purposes and such usage should be treated as an exception to the R.C. 3513.06 mandates; (3) the candidate changed the former name as a part of the citizenship process and should be treated similarly to the marriage purpose exception set forth in R.C. 3513.06; and (4) the county board of elections invalidated the mayoral candidacy on its own initiative and without any protest having been filed. In response, the county board of elections argued that (1) unlike the marriage purpose exception, neither an intent, common law, nor citizenship purpose is an exception within the plain and unambiguous language of R.C. 3513.06 and (2) the county board of elections acted within its statutory authority in invalidating the mayoral candidacy on its own accord. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the county board of elections.

In support of its decision in favor of the county board of elections, the Ohio Supreme Court explained that, “[w]hen statutory language is ‘unambiguous and definite, it must be applied as written and no further interpretation is necessary,’ [a]nd in this case, R.C. 3513.06 is unambiguous: when a person has had a change of name within the preceding five years, the person’s former name or names must be placed on the declaration of candidacy and petition.” 2023-Ohio-1051 at ¶ 17 (omitting internal citation). As a result, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that the county board of elections did not abuse its discretion or clearly disregard applicable law in finding that neither the process nor exceptions set forth in R.C. 3513.06 were followed by the mayoral candidate.

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 like the always-changing 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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