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Published: Friday, 11/18/2005

Election meal leaves sour taste

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Lucas County Board of Elections is now stuck in a flap about flapjacks.

With this Saturday's pancake breakfast for volunteer poll workers costing an estimated $11,250, the county commissioners said yesterday that the agency has devoted more money to recapping the problematic Nov. 8 election than preparing for it.

"I think they need to be conscientious of the dollars spent ahead of time to carry out a successful plan, not after the fact," Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said.

Unofficial results from the election appeared more than 13 hours after the polls closed, slower than the other 87 counties in the state.

The election was the first to use touch-screen voting machines at each precinct, leading the board initially to attribute the delay to "frightened" poll workers and later to a shortage of office space for calculating returns.

The breakfast at the Lucas County Recreation Center will give poll workers and the "rovers" who collected memory cards from the voting machines time to share their perspectives with the board.

Commissioner Pete Gerken said the board's plan to hold a meeting represented a "dog-ate-my-homework mentality.

"This looks like a cover-your-behind move," he said.

As of yesterday afternoon, 383 people sent RSVPs for the meal, said Jill Kelly, the board's director. With each plate costing $8.50, the breakfast should run $3,255.50. The board spent more than $8,025 promoting the event with a full-page ad in Tuesday's edition of The Blade.

Ms. Kelly said that the newspaper was the best way for her to reach a wide audience, but she now regretted the decision because of the controversy it generated. "If I had to do it all over again, dear God in heaven, I would not have placed the ad," said Ms. Kelly. "I shot with my heart instead of my head."

Ms. Wozniak said the board should have publicized the breakfast by mailing letters to volunteers. "I'm objecting to the expense because I'd rather have that go into poll workers' hands," she said.

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell wrote in a July memo that the board received an $87,568 federal grant for "voter education and poll worker training." According to invoices that were submitted to the county, the board spent only $1,718.65 to those ends.

Diana Minor, an official at the Lucas County Office of Management and Budget, said additional invoices might be forthcoming in the next month.

Ms. Kelly said she remains frugal with taxpayer dollars. "I'm so cheap, the floor squeaks when I walk," she said.

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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