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Published: Tuesday, 8/7/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Lucas Co. board of elections stalls on details of early-voting center

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Key issues that the Lucas County Board of Elections must have in place before the November presidential election went unresolved Monday when the panel couldn't agree on the site for the early voting center and its hours of operation.

In a sometimes contentious and fractious meeting, the board deadlocked 2-2 on eight motions, including one made by Republican Jon Stainbrook to move the early voting site from downtown Toledo to the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee.

The board vote ended in the same 2-2 tie on Mr. Stainbrook's proposal to limit the center's hours to the board of elections' regular business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on Nov. 2, when it would be open until 6 p.m.

Mr. Stainbrook argued that the "rec room" in the county-owned Rec Center, 2901 Key St., provides ample room for voting operations and adequate parking while saving taxpayer money because the county would not have to pay rent or buy insurance.

However, Ron Rothenbuhler, elections board chairman, said the limited schedule would be a hardship on people with day-time jobs or limited time after they get off work to vote early at the center.

"It is just hard to believe that we want to narrow the opportunity for people to vote after they work from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and are fortunate enough to have a job," he said.

Owners of the former Xerox Building at 801 Washington St. and the Toledo Business Technology Center, 1946 N. 13th St., submitted proposals in response to requests from the county for possible sites.

Democratic board members Mr. Rothenbuhler and Keila Cosme crafted separate motions to lease space in the two downtown area locations. The votes ended in 2-2 deadlocks, with Mr. Stainbrook and his fellow Republican board member, Tony DeGidio, voting against it.

The early voting center must be open for business on Oct. 2.

The Democrats also were miles apart from Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. DeGidio on what hours the yet-to-be-determined vote center will be open. Mr. Rothenbuhler and Ms. Cosme offered a 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday schedule, with extended hours on the last two Saturdays and Sundays in October. It too was shot down by the Republicans board members.

Ms. Cosme argued that keeping the vote center open into the evening would be consistent with prior election cycles and allow "maximum access to the voters of Lucas County."

Mr. Stainbrook countered that his proposal would not restrict access to the ballot because all registered voters in Ohio would receive applications for mail-in absentee ballots.

"I am concerned that everyone has access to the ballot," he said. "They can vote in the privacy of their own homes."

The five tie votes will be sent to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to decide or to send them back to the board to consider. Each side has 14 days to submit information and arguments for Mr. Husted to consider.

The secretary of state is also expected to decide three split votes at Tuesday's meeting to fill two Democratic positions in the elections office. Two votes were taken on hiring an information technology manager.

Mr. Rothenbuhler and Ms. Cosme voted yes on motions to hire Robert Walden, Jr., for the position while Mr. Stainbrook and Mr. DiGidio supported hiring Terrance McCormick.

The vote to promote Democratic seasonal employee Annie Cieslukowski to voter services clerk ended in 2-2, with the Democratic board members voting yes and their Republican counterparts voting no.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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