SECRETARY of State Ken Blackwell's decision to finally fire all four members of the Lucas County Board of Elections if they don't resign is about three years late, given the chaos that has plagued the local electoral process for so long.
Yesterday, at least two members, Republicans Bernadette Noe and Sam Thurber, heeded Mr. Blackwell's call, which is good news for the community.
Democrats Paula Ross and Diane Brown ought to follow their lead to avoid a drawn-out controversy.
In March, 2002, this newspaper called for a "thorough housecleaning" at the election office to remedy its "lack of leadership, incompetence, and staff turmoil."
Three years later that dismal record hasn't improved; if anything, it's gotten worse, with repeated instances of mismanagement, mistakes, and political infighting that have left citizens with little confidence that voter registrations are being recorded in a timely fashion and that the board's most fundamental task - counting the votes - is handled properly.
The board members were so busy squabbling among themselves that the proper conduct of elections has seemed like an afterthought.
A report to the secretary of state, commissioned after last fall's presidential election, holds the board members directly responsible for a number of serious administrative problems, including sending out incorrect absentee ballots and failing to keep ballots and poll books properly secured.
Those deficiencies are bad enough, but they don't adequately describe the board's well-documented dysfunction.
Over the past three years, the operation has been marked by a director who spent a lot of office time shopping on the Internet; a public announcement that the Sept. 11, 2001, election had been canceled due to the terrorist attacks (it wasn't); managers who verbally abused workers; an illegal liquor option election in a precinct where no petitions were circulated; absentee ballots not ready on time; inadequate training of poll workers, and an election in which some ballots went uncounted while others were counted twice.
The list could continue, but those are the lowlights.
The enduring lack of leadership is a blot on the board of elections that will take time to erase. The departure of all four can only improve the operation of this vital county office.
It is imperative that new members be appointed and seated as soon as possible so that the board can get back to its first duty, which is to competently oversee the conduct of efficient and accurate elections.
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