Election dysfunction


LESS than four months before a presidential election for the ages, Lucas County finds itself with a leaderless election apparatus - a dangerously dysfunctional position for a key political locale in a key political state.

That's why it is incumbent upon Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to keep her pledge to "provide whatever support necessary" for the county "to run a successful election" on Nov. 4.

The loss of the top two administrators at the board of elections in less than a month - Director Dan Pilrose's retirement on June 30, followed by Deputy Director Jill Kelly's unexplained departure on sick leave last weekend - leaves the county in a real bind at a critical juncture.

The board meets today, ostensibly to appoint a new director. That person's learning curve will have to be sharp if the presidential election is to be carried off without a major debacle.

Will the votes be counted accurately and without the interminable delay of the March primary? We couldn't blame voters if they were unsure.

This unnecessary confusion is mostly due to the vagaries of politics, past and present. It's another illustration of why we would like to see elections carried out by professionals rather than political appointees.

Nonetheless, politics still rules under Ohio law, and it's our judgment that Republican elections board members Lynn Olman and Patrick Kriner ought to resign to make way for appointees approved by the new GOP county chairman, Jon Stainbrook. If they won't leave voluntarily, Ms. Brunner should remove them, or replace the entire board, Democrats included, if it's necessary to get the local operation back on an even keel.

No one wants a repeat of the problems that plagued the board during and after the disastrous reign of Tom and Bernadette Noe, irregularities that resulted in the secretary of state's office invoking administrative oversight from 2002 to 2006.

Even after the board was released from oversight, problems continued. Ms. Kelly, while serving as director, failed to detect an error in ballot wording in 2007, resulting in the reprinting and remailing of thousands of absentee ballots. And, in this year's primary, the board was forced to throw out 921 absentee ballots because the voters failed to seal their ballots inside privacy envelopes that were too small. Ms. Kelly had been warned about the potential for confusion but took no action.

Incompetence is one thing, but there also was evidence that Ms. Kelly was involved in improperly sidetracking a legitimate public records request for election materials filed by an associate of Mr. Stainbrook during his run for county chairman - records later discovered in a box at GOP headquarters.

Bottom line: Serious problems at the board of elections still haven't been remedied, and the board lacks experienced administrators to fix them.

The county board and the secretary of state have less than four months to organize the reliable election the public deserves. They must deliver.