Local election chiefs have reinstated the candidacy of an Akron Republican accused in May of switching parties by casting a Democratic ballot.
Henry Todd, a Republican running for council at-large, voted three minutes after his polling location opened. The ballot he was given listed Democratic candidates. By law, Todd’s participation in another party’s nominating process disqualified him from running as a Republican.
Todd accused "prejudiced" poll workers in Akron's Ward 3 of assuming he wanted a Democratic ballot because he's black. Election workers said Todd asked for the Democratic ballot.
And, so, the Summit County Board of Elections held a hearing June 21 to sort through the conflicting stories.
The hearing, which involved poll workers telling different versions about how Todd got a Democratic ballot, determined that staff at the polling location had not followed proper procedure in matching ballots with voters, casting enough doubt to vindicate Todd.
“We just kind of had to weigh the evidence,” said Summit County Board of Elections Chair Bill Rich, a Democrat who voted with his two Republican counterparts to reinstate Todd’s candidacy. “We all agreed with varying degrees of confidence that the evidence did not support Henry Todd giving consent to have that ballot cast and, therefore, he didn’t cast a Democratic ballot and forfeit his nomination.”
Todd said the “outcome was outstanding.”
What really happened, though, remains something of a mystery that Rich said will be documented to enhance training for poll workers in future elections.
The poll workers in question agreed that Todd verbally requested a ballot. From there, the sequence of event gets confusing.
Instead of checking a box to select his party, a poll worker said she personally checked the box after hearing Todd say Democrat. Another poll worker standing nearby said Todd pushed the button. Todd said he pushed no button.
Proper procedure in Summit County is for poll workers to greet voters by asking for identification. If the voter says he or she wants a partisan ballot, then the greeter flips around a tablet and the voter picks the party.
A ticket is then printed and handed to another poll worker, who hands a corresponding ballot back to the greeter. A scanner links the ballot and voter.
Once Todd realized his own name wasn’t among the candidates on his ballot, he said he tried to give it back to the greeter. “She took it and said, ‘what do you want me to do with this?” Todd said last week. “Before I knew it, the older lady took it, tore it off and put it through the machine, twice.”
The machine rejected the ballot the first and second time because it was “under-voted.” Todd left it blank. The poll worker, who later testified that Todd gave his consent to process his vote, had to override the rejection to count the ballot.
“It was a fact that they tried to paint the picture that I was OK to cast that ballot,” Todd said.
Rich said there can be a quality control issue voting precincts with few residents volunteering. But two things are clear regarding the right way to process ballots, he said. “A. It was taught. B. Not everybody gets it.”
Reach Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3792.