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Don’t write them off

Andy Ouriel • Oct 29, 2013 at 7:40 PM

Diedre Cole faces many obstacles in her quest to return as a Sandusky city commissioner come January.

She’s involved in a highly contested, too-close-to-call race involving seven candidates vying for three open seats.

Also consider this: Cole hasn’t spent 1 cent on her campaign nor advertised her name on billboards or yard signs thus far.

But the most difficult challenge to overcome?

Unlike the six competitors, Cole’s name doesn’t appear on the ballot.    

So when Cole goes door-to-door in hopes of securing votes, she must tell residents who she is — and how they can vote for her.

“I’m running as a write-in candidate, which means you need to fill in the circle and write my name down,” Cole said to Camp Street resident Briana Pearson during a recent afternoon of campaigning. “You don’t have to spell it right. You just have to come real close to it.”

Tough road

Three Erie County residents officially declared themselves as write-in candidates for the November election.

Cole, along with Edison school board hopefuls Greg Cumston and Holly Kamm, didn’t submit the necessary candidate petitions with voter signatures before the August deadline.

Their names, therefore, were not included on the ballot.

They each later registered with the Erie County Board of Elections, however, to be official write-in candidates.

How to write-in candidates

To vote for a write-in candidate, you must complete two tasks on a ballot:

1. Completely darken the oval to the left of the blank line, which states “write in” just underneath the line.

2. Write in the candidate’s name on the line.


There are three official write-in candidates for offices in Erie County this November:

• Diedre Cole, Sandusky city commission

• Greg Cumston, Edison school board

• Holly Kamm, Edison school board


To the best of her knowledge there’s never been a write-in candidate who won a political office in Erie County, said Erie County Board of Elections director Jen Ferback said.


“If you are a write-in candidate, you are not asking people to recognize your name: You are asking them to remember it,” said Stephanie Walls, a BGSU Firelands political science assistant professor.

Candidates, like students taking the SATs, are rewarded just for their name being on the ballot — a disadvantage to write-in candidates, Walls said.

“It may sound silly, but the greatest challenge a write-in candidate faces is that their name is not on the ballot,” Walls said. “Many candidates get votes based on name recognition and nothing more. Write-in candidates do not get this benefit.”

Raising hope

Unlike Cole, this is Kamm’s first run as a political candidate.

She opted to run as a write-in candidate after someone she respected dropped out of the Edison school board race.

By the time she wanted to run, the signature deadline had passed.

“The only way to let people know you are running is to go out and talk to them,” said Kamm, who’s trekked across Berlin Heights and Milan in recent days seeking votes. “This takes more of an effort.”

Cole, meanwhile, is banking on Sandusky residents remembering what she’s accomplished in office since 2010.

Her platform for a four-year term involves being the most transparent city official within Sandusky’s government.

Case in point: She alone exposed an unlawful police search process in which city officials and volunteers unlawfully selected potential chiefs.

Her research and efforts forced city officials to restart the entire process, effectively admitting the negligence.

“I have had people ask, ‘Why do you air our dirty laundry?’ I’m thinking this is the public’s business, and I want public debate and conversation.”

Cole has also spearheaded talks to revitalize the Sandusky Bay Pavilion. She’s collaborated with BGSU Firelands College and Sandusky Schools administrators on the potential to create an on-site science center or research facility at the waterfront park.

“People who are watching and paying attention to the city get it and get who I am,” Cole said. “I’m relying on that.”

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