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Lucas County Board of Elections gets management aid

Cunningham-Husted

Keith Cunningham, left, former director of the Allen County Board of Elections, will lead the task force appointed by Secretary of State Jon Husted.

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Lucas County's troubled elections board will get some management assistance from the Ohio Secretary of State's Office.

Secretary of State Jon Husted has appointed a task force of four experienced elections officials to provide "transitional support" for the Lucas County Board of Elections after he ordered the dismissal of the former director and deputy director.

In a letter to Patrick Kriner, chairman of the county elections board, Mr. Husted said the four-person team will help the board get through the May 3 special election.

Leading the team is Keith Cunningham, former director of the Allen County Board of Elections and special projects coordinator in the secretary of state's office.

Under Mr. Husted's direction, the elections board last week terminated the director and deputy director, Democrat Linda Howe and Republican Jeremy Demagall, because they disregarded a directive from the secretary of state's office in November regarding the counting of provisional ballots.

In his letter to Mr. Kriner, Mr. Husted praised the board for its prompt action last Friday in dismissing Ms. Howe and Mr. Demagall, on a 3-0 vote, with one member abstaining.

"Understandably such decisions are difficult to make and I appreciate the dispatch and conscientiousness with which you took this action," Mr. Husted wrote. "It was an important step to build the confidence of voters in Lucas County that ballots will be counted in a manner consistent with law."

He said the Lucas County board's senior leadership and the special task force should meet via conference call at least once a week. In addition, a member of the task force will be in the Toledo office of the elections board at least once a week to monitor progress, assist with timelines, and provide advice as needed.

The arrangement is similar to one set up in 2008 by previous Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner when two directors resigned in rapid succession.

The team members are, in addition to Mr. Cunningham, Marilyn Jacobcik, a regional representative of the secretary of state's office serving northeast Ohio; Pat Wolfe, a long-time elections administrator for the secretary of state's office, and Brandi Laser Seskes, elections counsel with the secretary of state's office.

Mr. Kriner said the appointment was not unexpected.

"They're there to provide us support for the upcoming election cycle, particularly the election in May. They're not there to run the board," Mr. Kriner said.

Mr. Kriner already has tapped two top supervisors on the staff to take on some additional responsibilities, but under their existing staff titles. There is no provision in state law to appoint an interim director and deputy directors while a search for a new director and deputy director take place.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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