The Summit County elections board plans to take another look at new polling locations for the November election.
Board employees will visit proposed sites to examine whether they are handicapped-accessible, have enough parking and are large enough to handle the increased number of voters who will be assigned to them.
The board also plans to mail letters to mayors and townships trustees informing them of the new voting spots and seeking other potential locations, preferably for free.
After learning about the locations the board was considering in Tallmadge, Mayor David Kline offered the use of the community center and recreation center without any charge. He was concerned that one of the other locations the board was considering wouldn’t be big enough to handle all of the voters assigned to it.
The locations Kline suggested were included in a revised list of polling sites that the board discussed, but did not vote on, at Monday’s meeting. The list would cut the number of polling locations for the Nov. 6 presidential election from 194 to 140.
The board hopes employees can inspect the new locations in time for the board to vote on them at its Sept. 7 meeting.
The board has already cut precincts, going from 475 to 294, a 38 percent reduction, to address budget concerns. The board is now decreasing polling locations to reflect the precinct changes and possibly reduce expenses further. The changes are expected to save nearly $130,000 per countywide election.
The process is being watched with great interest by several groups, including the League of Women Voters, which has had local representatives at recent board meetings, including Monday’s.
Belinda Wing, who is with the Hudson league chapter, said she is pleased the board is taking a closer look at the polling locations and reaching out to communities for their input. She said a federal lawsuit filed by the league after the 2004 election requires boards in Ohio to comply with certain guidelines, such as for the number of booths and for handicapped-accessibility.
“We have to monitor this — that’s part of the process,” she said. “We represent voters.”
The revised list the board discussed Monday took care of a concern by the board’s Democratic members that polling locations for today’s special election also be used for the November election.
Board members asked employees to look at keeping voting in senior centers, as long as they are large enough and have enough parking.
“It’s not all based on money,” said Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman.
In other business, the board:
•Voted 3-1 to order about 304,000 ballots for Election Day (about 85 percent of the registered voters) and nearly 89,000 ballots for absentee voting (25 percent of registered voters) at a cost of $86,381. The board also will print absentee ballots and, if needed, Election-Day ballots, with its ballot-on-demand machines.
Wayne Jones, a Democratic board member, voted no because he thought the board was ordering too many ballots. Other board members said they wanted to make sure the board had enough. If the board runs out of ballots on Election Day, board member Alex Arshinkoff said, the four board members and staff could be out of jobs.
•Deadlocked on whether to have the Summit County prosecutor investigate whether board employees violated any state laws or election directives with their actions before a July 10 board meeting. Democratic board members claim a board employee let a Summit County Republican Party official into the office before it opened and the party official assembled people in the board’s lobby, checked their names off a list and gave them stickers saying “BOE observer.” They say employees are supposed to refrain from partisan activity at the board. (Democratic supporters assembled in the board’s parking lot before the jampacked meeting.)
Ray Weber, a Republican board member, said he thought this issue could be addressed by the board’s director and deputy director.
The board plans to post a sign on the main door explaining when the office opens and what activities are permitted.
This will be the ninth tie vote from the Summit board awaiting a decision by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
•Gave its tacit approval to, but declined to formally vote to accept, a higher budget that Summit County Executive Russ Pry has proposed for the board. County Council is expected to vote on the revised $6.1 million budget at its meeting next Monday.
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Mike Todd told the board that voting to accept the budget, which the Republican members think may still be $300,000 short of what is needed to make it through the year, would weaken the board’s position if it needs to ask the county for additional funds or decides to file action against the county seeking more money.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter (@swarsmith).