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The Lucas County Board of Elections stayed up all night, through 9 a.m. today, to finish tabulating the May 6 election results — pushing through multiple problems that included missing data cards, an accidental deletion of a computer file containing votes, and tension between two board members that prompted a sheriff's deputy to intervene.
Trouble with the election, which was being tabulated at the board's early vote center, became apparent at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. At that point, less than 73 percent of the results were posted online and had not been updated for about an hour.
Board member Jon Stainbrook told The Blade just before midnight that six data cards were missing, which was holding up the election count.
The board didn't finalize the primary election count until 9:28 a.m., after completing all-night count of the votes.
Final election turnout was 10.15 percent, with about 31,695 of Lucas County’s 312,412 registered voters casting ballots. The turnout in Ohio’s last gubernatorial primary, in 2010, was about 17 percent in Lucas County.
The election was wrought with problems, the most grievous being the missing cards.
PRIMARY ELECTION ROUNDUP: Some surprises on election night in Lucas County
Elections Director Gina Kaczala was pressed by several reporters about the missing six cards. She initially said there were no missing cards but later revised her statement, saying five cards were unaccounted for, but that they did not have votes on them.
Ms. Kaczala circled the early vote center area in an attempt to talk with reporters while Mr. Stainbrook, his ally former Elections Director Megan Gallagher, and Mr. Stainbrook's associate Kelly Bensman followed her like sharks stalking prey.
Ms. Kaczala said she would not speak while Mr. Stainbrook, Ms. Gallagher, and Ms. Bensman were present but could not find a private area to speak with the reporters.
She eventually said the missing cards were never used in voting machines for the election, but since they had been activated in testing, the election boards computer system showed them as missing.
Chad Rowley, an employee of Dominion Voting Systems — the company operates the touch screen voting machines — confirmed just after midnight that five cards were in fact missing.
Mr. Stainbrook and Ms. Kaczala started trading barbs with each other — with Mr. Stainbrook accusing Ms. Kaczala of lying to the media regarding the missing cards. The two argued loudly and Ms. Kaczala stepped menacingly toward Mr. Stainbrook before board member John Irish stepped in.
The two seemed ready to fight before a deputy on hand to keep the peace split the two up.
“She lost five data cards,” Mr. Stainbrook, a Republican, said.
“Just shut up. Just shut up,” Mr. Irish, a Democrat, responded.
More than an hour later, the elections board reconvened its election night meeting, which had stood in recess. It viewed and voted on the voter intent of a dozen paper ballots that could not be read by a scanner because voters didn't clearly mark a vote or in some cases, voted twice.
After the board recessed at 1:48 a.m., Deputy Director Dan DeAngelis announced that the five missing cards had been accounted for and the election tabulation was continuing.
“There were five that were never used here,” Mr. DeAngelis said referring to the early vote center. “They weren't used to cast votes here; they were never brought over.”
The five cards were found locked in the board of elections warehouse, where voting machines are stored, he said.
“They showed in the database,” Mr. DeAngelis said. “I believe they were used as testing purposes.”
Ms. Kaczala said the five cards were checked for votes and found to be empty.
Mr. Stainbrook called the mishap an “inventory control problem that could have been avoided.”
“These cards were found in the warehouse and the election was held up for hours,” he said. “I don't feel comfortable with that.”
At 2:04 a.m. another problem blew up at the board of elections that would set release of the results back several more hours.
“Part of the election was deleted,” Mr. Stainbrook said, referring to a computer file that contained votes.
“So now they are trying to recreate it,” he said.
A clearly frustrated Ms. Kaczala entered that area of the office and said: “now what?”
Mr. Rowley said a stack of paper ballots would have to be rescanned.
No one could clearly explain what the problem was, what votes had to be rescanned, or why.
Mr. DeAngelis sent in a team of elections board employees to rescan the paper ballots.
“It appears our Dominion technician is telling us 'the workspace is unavailable.' I am not really sure what that means,” Mr. DeAngelis said.
At 3:14 a.m., the issue of the five missing cards resurfaced as a major problem.
Mr. Stainbrook, Ms. Gallagher, Ms. Bensman, and fired elections board employee Noel Hahn asked Mr. Rowley to check the authenticity of the five cards by inserting them into a voting machine to check file creation dates. Mr. Hahn was a Republican observer.
Three of the cards appeared to have been created on May 7 while the two other cards showed creation dates in April — when testing for all cards to be used in the election and early voting occurred.
Mr. Stainbrook said the May 7 creation dates prove duplicity and subterfuge.
“They said these cards were for testing in April but they were created today,” he said. “How is that possible?”
Elections board employee Tim Reynolds said Mr. Stainbrook was mistaken but he could not explain why the three cards showed May 7 creation dates.
Ms. Kaczala and Mr. DeAngelis attempted to speak privately with Mr. Reynolds but Mr. Stainbrook, Ms. Gallagher, and Ms. Bensman all objected.
“This is an election and we are observers,” Ms. Bensman said.
Mr. DeAngelis responded: “You are allowed to observe out here.”
The four-member elections board reconvened again at 3:23 a.m. to vote on two more paper ballots that could not be properly scanned.
Mr. Stainbrook used the session to call for an emergency meeting to investigate the “data cards that were created tonight,” he said.
Mr. DeAngelis responded: “I'm not sure that's what it's showing. That staff has indicated that is not the case.”
Board member Anthony DeGidio said he did not see a need for an emergency meeting.
After the board recessed again, Board of Elections chairman Ron Rothenbuhler went to investigate.
The matter was left unresolved.
Mr. Stainbrook said Mr. Rowley would be able to run a report on voting machines at the warehouse, 546 Southard Ave., to determine if they were used early today to create any cards.
The tension among board members and the staff settled down as the hours dragged on toward dawn.
Just after 4 a.m., results were released for Toledo City Council District 2 race, showing incumbent Matt Cherry as the winner.
Results in the race for the South Toledo district council seat were tabulated online until all other elections results were counted and released. Ms. Kaczala said the board of elections had to "create two different databases." The second database is exclusively for the District 2 council race. Voters in District 2 cast paper ballots only because the city’s filing deadline did not leave enough time to load the race onto voting machines.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com or 419-724-6171.