Summit County released a 210-page report on election spending in Summit, Montgomery and Lucas counties Wednesday, concluding that election expenses in Summit are out of whack by comparison.
“It points out that our board of elections in Summit County is not operating as efficiently as those other two similar counties,” said Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry.
The report highlights a significant difference in personnel costs — among other items — and will be used by the county administration in its ongoing dispute with the elections board over spending. The administration and board have been feuding for months over how much money is needed to run elections in 2012, a presidential election year in which more people vote and boards are busier.
Pry, a former elections board member, set aside $4.8 million, while the board requested $9.3 million, which included $1 million in contingency costs. The board spent $7.1 million in 2008, the last presidential election year.
There’s nothing in the report, which includes a lengthy transcript of a board meeting and board memos, to justify giving the board more money, Dodson said.
The report notes that Summit spent $4 million on full-time, part-time and overtime wages in 2008 to handle 280,841 voters. Montgomery and Lucas spent $2 million and $1.9 million to handle 279,031 and 220,457 voters, respectively.
There also was a wide disparity in the total hours worked by employees: 214,262 in Summit, 119,943 in Montgomery and 125,363 in Lucas.
The report — more than an inch thick — also notes the current administrative costs in Summit ($455,292) are more than double those in Montgomery ($222,081) and Lucas ($211,247). Summit employs more assistant directors, administrative assistants and executive secretaries than the other counties.
The analysis has been delivered to the County Council and the board for review.
Ron Koehler, director of the elections board, said Wednesday he hadn’t had the chance to look over the report because he is busy preparing for the March 6 primary.
Kim Zurz, the board’s deputy director, also had not examined the analysis. She did say, however, that she noticed in a cursory review that the report didn’t include any information about the difference in expenses between the counties because of their different voting systems.
Lucas and Montgomery have electronic voting, which doesn’t require the need to purchase the number of paper ballots as Summit’s optical scan system requires.
The board recently did its own analysis comparing its expenses to Lucas and Montgomery that reached similar conclusions to the county’s probe. The board’s analysis showed Summit has more employees and spends more on full-time and part-time employees and booth workers. Even with the lower appropriation the county is proposing, the Summit board’s budget for this year would be nearly $1.8 million more than either Lucas or Montgomery.
Summit also has 100 more precincts than either Lucas or Montgomery, which both have reduced precincts to cut costs since the 2008 election.
Summit’s four-member board deadlocked Tuesday on cost-saving proposals to reduce the number of voting precincts and to eliminate or take away the health-care benefits of poll worker coordinators, who work part-time but receive full-time benefits. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is expected to break the ties.
The elections board has been working under a three-month, $1.5 million temporary budget the County Council approved.
The Pry administration expects to deliver legislation to the council next month that would appropriate more money for the board.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Beacon Journal reporter Stephanie Warsmith contributed to this report.