The Summit County Board of Elections is back to its dysfunctional ways, racking up tie votes on budget matters while wasting time with an ill-conceived investigation of an Akron City Council newsletter published this past November. If the board’s four latest tie votes are sent to Jon Husted for the Ohio secretary of state to break, it will have sent 10 issues this year. Only Lucas County is in the same league, having sent eight deadlocked decisions to Husted’s office.
After arguing that a hearing on the council’s newsletter was unnecessary because it involved a legal issue best left to the Summit County prosecutor’s office, Democrats on the board acquiesced last week with a Republican plan to probe further, a hearing set for July 10. The issue? The council, in a newsletter published in this newspaper, informed citizens of positions it took on state Issue 2 (the collective bargaining bill) and two local tax issues, an Akron school levy and a Summit County Development Disabilities Board levy.
In breaking an earlier tie vote on proceeding with an investigation, Husted noted that “it is unclear whether there is any violation of Ohio law.” Before the newsletter ran, the city law department gave the go-ahead, the council merely informing voters of positions already taken on issues of wide public interest. Republican elections board member Alex Arshinkoff, the Summit County party chairman, takes an extreme view, arguing the newsletter used public funds on a publication that “tells people how to vote.”
Three of the four new tie votes deal with a cost-cutting measure that would combine the board’s two computer systems, one for voter registration and one for Internet access. All the rest of Ohio’s 10 largest counties, and Husted’s office, use a single, more cost-effective system. Arshinkoff pushes aside these practical realities and argues adamantly that voter registrations could be compromised.
The board also deadlocked on a Republican proposal to research hiring outside counsel in case it goes to court to seek additional funds. Rather than lawyer up, the board ought to settle its budget dispute with Summit County. The board now is requesting $6.4 million, $1 million less than the county is offering. It shouldn’t take an expensive outside counsel to close the gap.