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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

State orders Howe, Demagall to be fired from Lucas County Board of Elections

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Thursday directed the Lucas County Board of Elections to fire its director and deputy director over improper counting of 114 provisional ballots.

Mr. Husted's letter orders the board to terminate the employment of Linda Howe, a Democrat, and Jeremy Demagall, a Republican, at its next scheduled meeting.

A meeting has been scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m.

It was not immediately clear who would replace the two fired officials.

The elections board came under investigation by the secretary of state after complaints that too many flawed provisional ballots were allowed to be counted in the Nov. 2 race for county commissioner. The addition of 4,000 ballots changed the outcome from Republican George Sarantou winning to having Democrat Carol Contrada winning.

The letter says that Ms. Howe and Mr. Demagall were instructed by the previous secretary of state how to handle the 114 ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct, but that the ballots were improperly counted.

The 114 ballots were counted as part of the Lucas County commissioners' race outcome that switched in favor of Mrs. Contrada after provisional ballots were counted.

Mr. Sarantou unsuccessfully challenged the outcome in court saying hundreds of ballots were counted that should have been thrown out because of inadequate identification and other flaws.

One set of flaws Mr. Sarantou complained about was provisional ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct but the right polling location.

Directives issued by the previous Ohio Secretary of State, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, said the votes could be counted if the voters used only the last four digits of their Social Security numbers as identification and if the board found, through an investigation, that poll worker error was to blame for the voting in the wrong precinct. The directive said the investigation should include interviewing poll workers, which was not done in Lucas County.

By state law, voters must vote in the precinct where they reside. An exception was created as the result of a consent decree in a federal court case brought by advocates for the homeless.



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