A Republican elections board member walked out of a meeting Tuesday morning in protest when a Democratic member proposed extending early voting hours to the weekend before the election.
“I’m no longer at this meeting,” Ray Weber, the only GOP member of the four-person board at the meeting, said as he jumped up to leave in a huff. “I don’t believe you have a quorum.”
Wayne Jones and Tim Gorbach, the two Democratic members, then voted 2-0 to allow in-person early voting at the board on the three days before the Nov. 6 election.
Whether this vote will count isn’t clear at this point.
Matt McClellan, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, said Tuesday afternoon that, when a member excuses himself or herself, he or she is no longer considered present at the meeting.
“I don’t think we believe a quorum was present at the time that the vote occurred,” he said.
Mary Ann Kovach, chief legal counsel for the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office who was at the board meeting, however, told Tim Gorbach, the Democratic chairman of the board in an email Tuesday afternoon, that she thinks the board had a quorum because Weber was still in the room when the vote occurred.
“In effect, he abstained from the vote,” Kovach said in an email. “Under these facts, with a quorum present, the votes count in favor of passage of Mr. Jones’ motion.”
Gorbach said he plans to confer with the secretary of state’s office to discuss the apparent disagreement over whether there was a quorum when the vote was taken.
Alex Arshinkoff, the second Republican elections board member, wasn’t at the meeting because he is at the Cleveland Clinic, recovering from a Sept. 12 car accident.
In-person early voting on the weekend before the election is the subject of ongoing litigation in Ohio, with President Barack Obama’s campaign arguing it should be reinstated after the Republican-controlled legislature eliminated it. A federal judge sided with the campaign, but the state is appealing.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted initially issued a directive to elections boards, advising them not to adopt weekend voting hours until this lawsuit is settled. He rescinded this directive after being ordered into federal court because of it.
Jones proposed that the Summit board have in-person early voting from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4; and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, which is the day before the election.
Depending on the outcome of the litigation, Jones said, the board might not be able to offer these extended hours.
The Republican legislature voted to end in-person early voting at 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election.
Early voting in Ohio starts Tuesday. Husted is requiring boards to follow uniform in-person early voting hours through the Friday before the election.
Asked why he made the proposal when he did, Jones said after the meeting that “it’s timely.”
“They’ve had a 3-2 majority since the beginning,” Jones said, referring to Husted, a Republican, who must break tie votes when elections boards can’t make decisions.
The Summit County board has had more tie votes than any other board in Ohio this year. Husted has sided with both the Republican and Democratic board members in Summit and other counties.
Weber said after the meeting that he called Husted’s office and asked what he could do if the two Democratic board members tried to take action he disagreed on, with Arshinkoff being absent. He said he was told that, if he left the meeting, the board would lack the required three-member quorum and any action the board members took would be void.
“In any event, it’s sad,” Weber said. “I was ready to thank them for being courteous in light of Alex’s absence — and then Wayne pulls that.”
Arshinkoff was in an accident on state Route 8 in Hudson in which his vehicle veered from the right lane and struck a disabled car stopped on the side of the highway. The long-time Summit County GOP chairman was cited for failure to control.
Arshinkoff, who was initially taken to Summa Akron City Hospital and then transferred to Cleveland Clinic, declined to comment Tuesday.
If Arshinkoff is unable to attend meetings for an extended period, the board would have several options, including having meetings off site, said McClellan, Husted’s spokesman.
In other business, the board voted 2-1 to have two greeters — one Democrat and one Republican — at each polling location with two or more precincts to help direct voters with questions. The Democratic board members proposed taking this step in light of the expected confusion from the board reducing precincts and polling locations between the March primary and November general election to save money.
“We want to make sure people get to the right place,” said Kim Zurz, the board’s Democratic deputy director.
Weber, who voted no, was concerned about the expense and favored putting one greeter at the polling locations with multiple precincts. The board learned, though, that this course wasn’t possible because Husted’s office said at least one greeter from each party would need to be posted at each polling site to maintain the party equality required by the state.
Summit will have 50 polling locations with one precinct and 101 with two to five precincts. The 202 greeters are expected to cost the board $24,240, said Joe Masich, the board’s director.
Masich said he isn’t sure what the additional expense would be for in-person early voting for the three days before the election.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.