It's not very exciting news, but the Lucas County Board of Elections is spending $2,000 to replace the rolls of paper in its antiquated mechanical voting machines before the November election.
Those are the rolls of paper on which write-in votes are written. The money is peanuts compared with other costs associated with using the old machines for each election.
The preparation comes in anticipation of an aggressive write-in campaign by Republican Tim Kuhlman, a Toledo lawyer, to unseat county Probate Judge Jack Puffenberger. In the May primary election, elections officials encountered several suspicious cases in which write-in votes seemed to disappear. They are intent on making sure such embarrassments do not happen this November.
The money spent on paper rolls is next to nothing compared to the $35,000 it costs the elections board just to move their hulking voting machines into place for each election.
And now that many of the counties around the nation that still use the same types of machines that we here in Lucas County first put into service during the Johnson administration - and still use - are selling them to countries like Bolivia and Bosnia, replacement parts are going to be an issue.
Repair could be a source of significant cost for Lucas County, Joe Kidd, elections director, said. Because of what has happened - or more rightly, what has not happened - in Washington this summer, those machines may be around a long time.
Yes, you remember the summer, when it looked like Congress was so bent on election reform that it seemed millions would rain down from Washington into local election office coffers. Lucas County officials dreamed that shiny, new, voting systems would quickly be purchased and installed to make casting a ballot a simple and foolproof affair.
Now, those bureaucrats are waking up to find the U.S. Senate could not rise above partisanship to serve the national interest. The election reform bill is dead, and the federal money that local officials were dreaming of is gone.
Lucas County officials figured it would cost about $3.5 million to replace their old voting machines.
Antoinette Szuch, the former director of the Lucas County elections board who was ousted after a report from the county prosecutor found mismanagement in the office this spring, has filed for unemployment.
This despite the fact that the 30-year employee officially retired from the board - in writing - after the report was made public to avoid being dismissed.
The elections board is fighting her claim, in part because she did not correctly state under what conditions she left the elections office.
In her application for unemployment, Ms. Szuch wrote that “it was voted [by the four members of the elections office governing board] that claimant would be reappointed as elections director. In May, 2002, the vote was rescinded and another individual was assigned the position.”
In fact, Ms. Szuch was never voted in for another term. The board deadlocked, and she continued in her job for a couple of months while the board waited for the prosecutor's investigation to be completed. It decided not to reappoint her once the report was released.
Mr. Kidd was named to replace her.
Political foot soldiers are out planting their mark on the local political landscape as we move headlong into the serious campaign season. You can tell because their work is sprouting up along the public rights-of-way along local highway exit and entrance ramps, where those black and yellow lawn signs promoting the candidacies of Supreme Court candidates Tim Black and Janet Burnside have taken root.
You typically don't see a lot of them at any one ramp - usually just five or six in a clump.
The problem is, the signs are on public property and are, therefore, illegal. Those placing them there know this - everyone in politics knows it is illegal to place campaign signs on public rights-of-way. They put them there because they think the name recognition they might gain will outweigh any negative impact the illegal placement might incur.