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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2001

Certifying of ballots gives Ford bigger win

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Lucas County board of elections certified results of the Nov. 6 election yesterday that included an expansion of state Rep. Jack Ford's drubbing of opponent Ray Kest in the Toledo mayor's race.

The board action triggered recounts in three other local elections, including races for a seat on the Maumee school board, the Springfield Township board of trustees, and the Lucas County Educational Service Center board. Those recounts will be Monday.

The races featured candidates who finished within five-tenths of 1 percent of each other, triggering automatic recounts. The recount for the Springfield Township board of trustees race is set for 9 a.m., followed by the recount for the Maumee school board race at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m., the recount will be conducted for the Lucas County Educational Services Board race, according to Antoinette Szuch, director of the board of elections.

In Springfield Township, five votes separate candidates Robert Bethel, who garnered 1,573 votes, and Andy Glenn with 1,568. Marylin Yoder, a former trustee who lost her post in 1993, easily won a seat on the board with 1,808 votes.

Seven votes separate candidates Thomas Leonard and Stephanie Piechowiak in the Maumee school board race. Mr. Leonard, who is trailing 1,493 to 1,500, is the current school board president.

In the Lucas County Educational Services Center race, where there were four candidates with three to be elected, the recount will determine whether Joe Rutherford or Karen Rogalski takes a seat on the board. Mr. Rutherford was credited with 10,429 votes and Ms. Rogalski with 10,406.

The election certification also showed Mr. Ford won by an even greater margin than indicated on election night. With the count of walk-in votes, his victory margin grew by 183 votes. The final tally: 47,346 votes for Mr. Ford to 31,163 for Mr. Kest, the county treasurer.

In other business, the elections board, acting on advice from the county prosecutor's office, did not certify results of a local liquor sales option that voters in a Springfield precinct defeated at the polls.

The four-member elections board set aside those results, citing irregularities in the manner in which board workers placed the option on the ballot.

The measure, usually a mundane election matter, has sparked controversy because of the mistakes made by election workers. County Prosecutor Julia Bates said the matter remains under investigation to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

“There are several things we are looking at. We are looking thoroughly at the facts and at the law,” she said. “We are certainly cognizant that certain events took place with regard to the November election, and we are certainly looking into that.”

She said a decision on a course of action could be made by the end of the year.

The measure asked voters in Springfield Precinct 1 to consider a proposal to allow the sale of wine and mixed drinks at the Airport Lounge after 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Bar owner Jim Fall hired a Columbus political consulting firm last summer to gather signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot and to campaign for its passage.

But acting on incorrect information supplied by workers in the elections office, the firm collected signatures and campaigned in the wrong precinct.

Members of the board of elections certified the measure to the ballot in the wrong precinct, again acting on incorrect information supplied to them by elections board workers.

Later, when the mistake was discovered, Ms. Szuch and deputy director Larry Loutzenhiser moved the election to the proper precinct and ordered ballots to be reprinted to correct the error.

Though their movement of the local option measure apparently violated state laws governing elections, the pair said they took the action because it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.

They did not consult with the elections governing board or Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Board members said they learned of the troubles with the issue only after the election.

Mr. Blackwell said he has assigned an assistant to look into the matter.

Mr. Fall said he is considering legal action against the board to recover money he spent on his campaign to pass the measure, plus other damages.

“I am thinking heavy about doing that. I can't believe how sloppy they are,” he said.

He said he paid the Columbus firm $7,000 to get the measure passed.

Blade staff writer Janet Romaker contributed to this report.



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