By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer
The Summit County Board of Elections continues to squabble about what activities are permissible outside the Job Center, the board's early voting site in Akron.
The latest disagreement centers on a trailer.
It sits just outside the required 100-foot setback for campaign activities. On one side of the trailer is a large sign that reads: ''Vote Today Vote Democratic.'' Campaign posters for Democratic candidates are plastered on another side.
The board's Republican members, who lost the battle over early voting being held at the Job Center, say the trailer is in an area meant for voter parking. They want the Democrats to move it to another part of the parking lot.
''I don't think this was the spirit of moving early voting to the Job Center,'' Brian Daley,
the board's Republican chairman, said during a meeting Tuesday. ''It's the right thing to move it across the driveway.''
Ray Weber, the other Republican board member, said one of the Democratic board members' main arguments for needing the Job Center for early voting was the necessity for more parking. Now the party is taking up one of the prime spaces.
''This smacks of dishonesty,'' he said. ''If we need parking spaces, they should be for voters. That should not be where you put your trailer down.''
Wayne Jones, a Democratic elections board member who also chairs the Summit County Democratic Party, pointed out that the trailer was parked in the same spot in the Job Center's lot in 2008 and Republicans didn't question it. He said the Democrats will take the Republicans' request ''under advisement,'' informing them of their plans by the end of the week.
Jones has said the Republicans are opposed to early voting because they think it benefits Democrats. He said the placement of the trailer is legal and to call it dishonest is ''hogwash.''
The board is offering early voting for the Nov. 2 election at the Job Center, 1040 E. Tallmadge Ave., Akron, because of space and parking constraints at the board's main Grant Street office. The Job Center has more parking than the approximately 30 spaces designated by cones for voters.
Before early voting even started Sept. 28 at the Job Center, the board's Republicans challenged Democratic activities planned for outside the facility.
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner agreed with Republicans when a Democratic candidate for Ohio Senate planned to host a barbecue the evening before early voting started, stay overnight in the parking lot and offer a continental breakfast the next morning. She said those activities didn't ''pass the smell test'' and voters ''should not receive something of value, especially from a candidate, when voting.''
When Daley e-mailed Brunner about the trailer issue Friday, Gretchen Quinn, an attorney in Brunner's office, responded by telling him the placement of the trailer was legally permissible, as long as it was outside the 100-foot setback. She suggested board members try to work out the disagreement themselves.
Quinn's suggestion follows a recent request by Brunner, who attended a special meeting and broke the board's tie vote in favor of using the Job Center, to try to get along and work issues out on their own. She noted that the Summit board has had more tie votes than any other board during her time as secretary of state.
The Republicans also questioned plans by the Democratic Party to have a rally Oct. 2 in the Job Center parking lot, featuring several prominent Democratic candidates.
Officials with Brunner's office informed the Republicans that the activity was permissible, as long as it was outside the 100-foot ''neutral zone,'' and nothing of value was being given out.
''We also explained that political rallies are among the most protected forms of political speech under the First Amendment,'' said Patrick Gallaway, a spokesman for Brunner.
Voting is being offered at the Job Center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Election Day, Nov. 2. The Job Center and all elections boards will be closed Monday to observe Columbus Day.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com.
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