This week, the Summit County Board of Elections took the welcome step of readjusting precinct boundaries, expanding the number from the 298 in effect last fall to 420. While that’s below the number, 475, for last year’s primary election, the readjustment amounts to a significant step toward smoother voting.
An ill-advised move to cut costs led to the reduction in precincts between the primary and general elections last year. The plan, approved over Democratic objections, resulted in trouble at the polls. Complaints poured into the board, voters upset with wait times, some in excess of two hours, plus confusion about where to vote. Poll workers found themselves overwhelmed by the higher turnout of a presidential election year.
For a budget that came in under $6 million, the savings from the precinct reductions were minimal, estimated between $120,000 and $140,000. Instead of more deeply examining ways to operate more efficiently, the board dumped its financial problems into the lap of the electorate.
The new precincts will be in effect for the Aug. 6 special election, along with new polling locations. The board must work to eliminate confusion by helping voters find the right polling place.
It also must continue to examine its operations to find savings, board spending out of line with counties of similar size. That means personnel trained to handle multiple duties, allowing for a smaller work force, and pursuing labor-saving technologies such as electronic poll books.