Friday, May 25, 2018
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No confidence

Ohioans begin to cast their ballots for president in less than five weeks. Yet the fractious Lucas County Board of Elections still has not agreed on where to put the county's early-voting center. It may be too close to the Nov. 6 general election to replace this dysfunctional group, but the status quo is intolerable.

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The Blade reported this week that among Ohio's 88 counties, only the elections board in Summit County has asked Secretary of State Jon Husted to break more tie votes this year than Lucas County. No other county is even close. Most county boards don't deadlock at all.

Democrats on the board blame their GOP counterparts, especially board member and county Republican Party Chairman Jon Stainbrook. He counters that Democrats are mad because they are used to having everything their way in this heavily Democratic county.

But finger-pointing doesn't change the fact that the two Democrats and two Republicans on the elections board can't even agree on basic matters such as the hiring of staffers. That inspires scant confidence in their ability to conduct a fair, efficient, and credible election.

Mr. Husted apparently agrees. He has placed what he called the "pathetic" Lucas County elections board under "special masters," at least until after Election Day. The board's director and deputy director no longer run its operations. Instead, they take their orders daily from the secretary of state's office.

But state officials have not won any glory for themselves recently in administering elections. Republican lawmakers tried and failed to require Ohioans to present photo identification to vote. They passed a law that would have restricted access to voting, only to repeal it rather than let voters have their say on it in November. A lawsuit seeks to keep the repealed law on the ballot.

Mr. Husted, a Republican, says fairness motivated him to eliminate in-person voting this year on weekends and most evenings. Of the more than 1.7 million Ohioans who voted early in 2008, one in six went to a polling place rather than cast an absentee ballot.

The job of elections board officials -- indeed the reason board positions are evenly divided between the two major parties -- is to ensure that all voters can have confidence in the process. The board is supposed to guard against one party running roughshod over the other, and to protect against the rogue partisan in either party who would subvert the system to gain an unfair advantage.

But Lucas County's myopic elections board cannot see beyond partisan interests. That increases the likelihood of a repeat of the 2008 provisional-ballot fiasco that cost the board's former director and deputy director their jobs. Worse, it could endanger the integrity of this year's presidential vote in the county.

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