(WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has completed its review of petition signatures submitted by East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton on Wednesday. The board has verified that the petitioners have reached or exceeded the minimum required number of 559 valid signatures. Of the 1,613 signatures submitted, 827 (51 percent) were certified as valid.
According to Pat McDonald, director of the Cuyahoga County BOE, Ohio law presented a unique challenge to the petitioners in gathering valid signatures.
"Not only did they have to gather signatures of registered voters, but those voters also had to have cast a ballot in the November 2013 General Election," McDonald explained.
Elected officials of Cleveland and East Cleveland are now responsible for moving the annexation process forward.
"There are many steps still remaining in this process for both cities. The earliest that this issue could be on the ballot would be the March 2016 Presidential Primary Election," said McDonald.
The next steps of the annexation process:
- Once the certified petition is presented to the city of East Cleveland, the city has 30 days to appoint three commissioners who will be responsible for negotiating the terms of the annexation with the city of Cleveland.
- The city of Cleveland will then have 30 days to appoint its own three commissioners to negotiate annexation terms.
- The six commissioners will have 120 days to negotiate annexation terms. Only four of the six commissioners must agree upon the terms in order to proceed.
- Once terms are agreed upon, both cities will have 30 days to certify the issue to the BOE.
- If the BOE receives the issue by Dec. 16, 2015, it will be placed on the ballot for the March 15, 2016 Primary Election. If received after Dec. 16, 2015, the issue will be placed on the ballot for the Nov. 8, 2016 General Election.
If all of the requirements for annexation are met, the Cleveland City Council has the option of putting the issue before their voters or approving the annexation by a council vote.