Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today issued a strongly worded criticism of the members of the Lucas County Board of Elections’ failure to resolve their political and personal differences, and placed the organization under tight state control.
Mr. Husted said he was putting two elections administrators, one of each party, over day-to-day operations in the office.
He said the office was too dysfunctional to be left on its own with the presidential election less than 90 days away.
“Since becoming Secretary of State, my office has devoted an inordinate amount of time to mediating the personal and political squabbles of the Lucas County Board of Elections,” Mr. Husted, a Republican, said.
He noted that state law puts the two major political parties in charge of overseeing local elections, and in most counties, the process works “well enough, either as result of hardworking people of good will or by detente.” But he said, “In Lucas County, the internal board culture is dysfunctional. The underlying operational culture is divisive and threatening.
“Board members and staff refuse to communicate with others resulting in meetings and conversations that dissolve into worse than stalemate. It is clear after several attempts to work constructively with all parties, including my most recent request for cooperation; this board is unable to meet the minimum operational standards we expect as we prepare for a presidential election,” Mr. Husted said.
The letter was sent to the four board members: Democrats Ron Rothenbuhler and Keila Cosme and Republicans Jon Stainbrook and Anthony DeGidio.
In recent weeks, the board of elections has sent numerous 2-2 tie votes to Mr. Husted to break. One of those tie votes was on an organizational chart proposed by Democrats Rothenbuhler and Cosme. Mr. Husted broke the tie vote in opposition to the plan and gave the board until Aug. 9 to produce an organization chart all four could support, or he would take more direct control of the board. In his letter Monday, Mr. Husted said the board failed “in this most fundamental task of local elections administration.”
Among the requirements in the Secretary of State’s letter:
*Two “special masters” will be assigned to oversee the office. Republican Director Meghan Gallagher and Democratic Deputy Director Dan DeAngelis would retain their titles “but will be relieved of all duties previously assigned” and will work at the direction of the special masters until further notice.
*The director and deputy director must copy the Secretary of State with all their emails.
*A regional information technology support liaison will be on-site in Lucas County at least two days a week and the board will get additional support from Dominion Elections Services on a contract to be negotiated with the company.
As a final step, Mr. Husted said he was appointing bipartisan election administration consultants to report to him by Dec. 31 to recommend changes in policies and procedures.
Mr. Husted said if any of the board members choose to resign he would work with the respective political party to “find a suitable, community-minded, public servant to appoint to serve the remainders of their terms.”
The Secretary of State said that with the election less than 90 days away “immediate measures must be taken to provide reasonable level of assurance that the election in Lucas County will be administered in a professional manner.”
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