A Republican is alleging that racial discrimination may disqualify his victory at the polls in Akron on Tuesday.
Henry Todd said he was one of the first to vote Election Day morning at Centenary United Methodist Church in Ward 3, which covers the Sherbondy Hill and Summit Lake neighborhoods.
Voters typically push Republican or Democrat on a touch pad device. But Todd claims he was never given the opportunity to declare his party affiliation. The Republican candidate for council-at-large took the ballot, noticed his name was missing and “got frustrated,” he said. He left the ballot blank and handed it to another poll worker who fed it through a scanning machine.
Then Todd said he went back to the table of Republican and Democratic poll workers to ask for a second ballot, this time to vote for himself and other Republicans.
But it was too late. His Democratic ballot had been cast, which in effect changed his registration to Democrat.
And though he came in second in the Republican primary for three at-large council seats, state law says: “Any candidate nominated at a party primary election who votes in that primary election as a member of a political party different from the party that nominated the candidate shall forfeit the nomination.”
Todd, who said the local GOP recruited him to run, is accusing poll workers of racial discrimination. “A lot of these black people assume that if you’re black you automatically want a Democratic ballot,” he said Thursday.
The matter is under investigation by the Summit County Board of Elections. Director Joe Masich said poll workers from both political parties have provided statements that conflict with Todd’s version of the events.
“This is my formal complaint on the grounds that Ward 3 precinct polling representatives are assuming that if you are black you are automatically voting the Democratic ticket," Todd wrote in one of three formal complaints filed on Election Day. "They forced me, but I was wise enough … to vote for no Democrat because I understand that the Biblical integrity of this country hinges on the Republican ticket.”
Masich, a Republican, and Deputy Director Paula Sauter, a Democrat, visited the polling location Tuesday afternoon to investigate. The two Democrats and two Republicans on the board of elections, at their next regular meeting on May 17, may schedule a formal hearing to review evidence, hear from witnesses, consult a county prosecutor and possibly reach out to the secretary of state's office before ruling on what's being described as a very unusual case of mistaken ballot casting.
“I’ve never come across this before,” said Democrat Bill Rich, who chairs the board of elections. “But I imagine that the issue must have arisen because there’s a state statute that addresses it.”
Rich and his colleagues must certify the primary election results by May 28. If Todd is disqualified, state law says the Summit County Republican Party executive committee may appoint a replacement. Cynthia Blake and Monica McNatt finished first and third in the race. Osita Obierika, a perennial candidate in races that strongly favor Democrats, came in fourth.
Summit County Republican Party Chair Bryan Williams did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.
Reach Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3792.