Lucas County elections officials are blaming a technical glitch for switching the party registrations of as many as 167 voters, including Democratic Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates and Republican Toledo Municipal Judge Tim Kuhlman, to the Green Party.
Sean Nestor, a sharp-eyed local political analyst and candidate of the Green Party, checked out a filing on the Ohio Secretary of State‘s Web site and spotted that a disproportionate number of people pulled ballots in the May 6 for the Green Party, which espouses progressive, pro-environmental policies.
Mr. Nestor, who ran unsuccessfully as a Green candidate for Toledo City Council in 2013, noticed that most of the new converts were in South Toledo precincts 16G and 16H. Both of those precincts voted at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School. Of the 167 supposed Green voters, 125 voted Republican and 10 voted Democratic in the 2012 primary.
“I‘m kind of amazed this happened,” Mr. Nestor said, adding that it should not come as a surprise given the recent history of the Lucas County Board of Elections, which has been described as dysfunctional by Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Lucas County Elections Director Gina Kaczala said a mistake was most likely made when the polling books were “wanded” as part of the vote-canvassing process, which occurred between the election and May 27. She said the board will fix the mistakes.
She said the Ohio Secretary of State knows those kinds of mistakes happen. She said the mistakes would have come to light in an audit comparing the precinct books, which are signed by voters, with the voter file sent to the Secretary of State.
“Every single year this happens. It‘s nothing new,” said Ms. Kaczala, who took over as election director March 4. “They’ve got these little tiny wands. If you‘re pointing it at the wrong lines, that’s why they give you until June 20.
"This is why we need electronic poll books,“ Ms. Kaczala said. ”It eliminates human error.“
Ms. Bates said she definitely voted as a Democrat, and said she would have her staff ask about the apparent registration mixup to make sure it can be corrected and that it doesn’t affect candidates who were on the primary ballot for partisan nomination.
That didn‘t stop her from ruminating on the possibilities of a new political persuasion.
"Maybe I’ll run as a green voter. I might get more votes,“ said Ms. Bates. That would be hard to do since she has been uncontested in her last four bids for office. ”I‘ve been a Democrat at least since 1996 and I just voted [May 6] as a Democrat, so I’m pretty sure I‘m a Democrat, even though some people don’t think so,“ Ms. Bates said.
Judge Kuhlman also said he has not switched parties, even though his family practices the three environmentalist Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
“We‘re pretty aggressive about that,” he said. But, “I did not change my registration,” he said.
The Green Party in Lucas County had 41 voters in 2010, 109 in 2012, and 301 in the most recent primary. Mr. Nestor said he believes a multi-party system would be advantageous and that the state should get away from having its boards of elections controlled by the two major political parties. He said having more parties in the mix would result in more collaboration and less competition.
The elections board has been beset with management issues that prompted a four-day hearing by a specially appointed bipartisan “transparency committee.” The committee recommended the removal of Ms. Kaczala, Deputy Director Dan DeAngelis, and board members Jon Stainbrook, Tony DeGidio, and Ron Rothenbuhler. Mr. DeAngelis resigned, effective Monday, and the other four have defended their performance to Mr. Husted, who has not made a decision.