If you want to vote early in Summit County, you’ll need to go to the Board of Elections office.
The board will not operate another site for in-person early voting for the November election, as it had for general elections in 2008 and 2010.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted broke three tie votes from the Summit board related to early voting Wednesday. He chose the board office and rejected off-site locations the Republican and Democratic board members had suggested.
“The Summit County Board of Elections has a large building with ample unallocated or flexible-use space that can easily be re-purposed to accommodate in-person absentee voting,” Husted wrote in his decision.
The Republican board members proposed early voting at the board or, if Husted favored another location, renting the second floor of the Beacon Journal building in downtown Akron. Democratic board members wanted to use the former hhgregg store near Chapel Hill Mall.
Husted, a Republican, didn’t like either spot, saying “neither side in this controversy proposed genuine off-site solutions.”
Democratic board members sought an off-site location for early voting because they believe the board’s office — at 470 Grant St., near the University of Akron campus — is insufficient. The board experienced long lines and parking issues during early voting in the 2008 primary.
“It was a train wreck,” Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman, said Wednesday.
Gorbach said the board will do everything it can, including exploring extra parking in nearby locations and looking into the possibility of using a shuttle, to accommodate early voters. The board will discuss options during its next meeting, which is Monday.
“We will do our damndest to make it as accommodating as possible,” he said. “We will live with what the secretary of state tells us we have to do.”
Summit elections officials are expecting 20,000 to 25,000 people to vote early in person and another 90,000 to cast absentee ballots by mail. Early voting for the Nov. 6 election begins Oct. 2.
Alex Arshinkoff, a Republican board member, thinks the board can accommodate early voters at its office, which is the practice in 85 of Ohio’s 88 counties.
“Our board of elections is bigger than most,” he said. “None of the boards of elections were set up before this law went into effect.”
Arshinkoff said having early voting at the elections board improves security, because ballots don’t have to be transported and because the board already has numerous cameras.
Republican board members also expressed concern that Democrats would take advantage of the large parking lot at the hhgregg site for electioneering purposes.
Husted referred to this in his letter about the tie votes, saying the location “seems more appealing for its accessibility for electioneers than voters, creating a voting sideshow.”
Gorbach said electioneering is permitted within 100 feet of any polling location, including on Election Day.
“Clearly, he’s more concerned about that than about having the proper space to vote,” he said. “What’s happening in Ohio — on the Republican side — is they want to limit access to voters.”
Husted also broke tie votes Wednesday regarding a hearing that alleged the Akron City Council broke election laws with newsletters it published that advocated for or against local and statewide issues. He opted against sending the issue to the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office and directed the board to forward the matter to the state auditor.
In another decision, Husted voted in favor of the Summit board allowing public speaking during meetings. He said the public comment period “may be limited to ensure that the board is able to complete the agenda.” He directed the board to “adopt a consistent policy for public speaking.”
Gorbach hopes the four-member board can come to an agreement on the speaking rules and not send another tie vote to Columbus. Husted already has decided more tie votes this year for the Summit board than any other board in Ohio.
“I hope the four of us can come together,” Gorbach said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com.