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Published: Tuesday, 11/8/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Issue 2 vote may push turnout higher

Board of elections: Steps taken to ensure count

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Barbara Steagall works Tuesday at a polling locaiton inside the Maumee Branch Library. Barbara Steagall works Tuesday at a polling locaiton inside the Maumee Branch Library.
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As voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide statewide questions and local races and levies, the Lucas County Board of Elections said it has acted to ensure that the vote count won’t be tainted by distrust over the investigation into an allegedly hacked email.

Election experts expect a bigger turnout than normal for odd-year elections because of the intense interest in Issue 2 on the ballot in Ohio.

The issue would put a major crimp in the collective-bargaining rights of public sector employees if it passes.

It was passed earlier this year by the Republican-led General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich. But a coalition of labor unions and Democrats succeeded in forcing the proposed law, known as Senate Bill 5, onto the ballot in hopes of getting it defeated.

A poll released Monday by the national group Public Policy Polling projected that Issue 2 would go down to defeat 59-36 percent. The Raleigh polling firm said it surveyed 1,022 likely voters from Friday through Sunday and its results had a 3.1-point margin of error.

Jim Ruvolo, a former state Democratic Party chairman and member of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said he was predicting a 55-45 percent defeat for Issue 2.

“I think it was an overreach by the state Legislature,” Mr. Ruvolo said.

Tea Party activist Linda Bowyer of Perrysburg, whose Northwest Ohio Patriot Coalition members made phone calls on Thursday to urge passage of Issue 2, said polling on ballot questions is not reliable.

“I think it could go either way,” Ms. Bowyer said. “I think it just very much depends on who gets out to vote.”

To build public confidence in the final count, the Lucas County Board of Elections distributed new passwords on Monday for the computer system that will count the votes, said Ben Roberts, board director.

And he said the board invited both major parties to post fresh observers at the board offices, at 1302 Washington St., for the actual vote-counting process.

The Lucas County Board of Elections' Roberta Gordon, a Democrat, second from right, and Republican Andrea VanderPol, right, process absentee ballots. Half as many absentee ballots as last year were requested this year. The Lucas County Board of Elections' Roberta Gordon, a Democrat, second from right, and Republican Andrea VanderPol, right, process absentee ballots. Half as many absentee ballots as last year were requested this year.
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The board, which went under supervisory oversight by the Ohio Secretary of State after a controversial vote count last year for Lucas County commissioner, is under investigation by Toledo Police over the alleged hacking of a Republican board employee’s email account.

“There is no reason to believe the passwords have been compromised or the [voter tabulation] system has been compromised,” Mr. Roberts said. “There is certainly no way people could manipulate the system.”

In response to news reports about the email investigation, the Ohio Secretary of State last week sent the elections office a letter asking detailed questions about two computers that had been taken by a Toledo Police detective and an FBI special agent as evidence.

The response, provided Monday to The Blade by the Secretary of State’s Office, indicates that the voter-tabulation system, known as GEMS, is a stand-alone computer that is not connected either to the network or to the Internet. The GEMS system is the computer into which memory cards used in voting machines at polling places are inserted for the final count on election night.

Mr. Ruvolo said the board’s response to the secretary of state’s office shows that there has been no threat to the integrity of the election.

“I think we’re clear that the latest issue over the email is not something that affects the computers that do elections. We’re going to have redundancies in place to make sure we’re watching very carefully,” Mr. Ruvolo said.

Republican board member Jon Stainbrook, who is also the county Republican Party chairman, said the board has taken every step to ensure that every polling location is fully staffed and that the process is fair and transparent.

He said the provisional ballots, which were the subject of dispute after the 2010 general election, will be stored in double-locked rooms that can be opened only with keys by both Democrats and Republicans.

In addition to Issue 2, some local races have also generated political heat, including a contest for an open seat on the Toledo Municipal Court that was the subject of a decision Monday by the Ohio Elections Commission.

In the contest for the seat to replace retiring Municipal Judge Francis X. Gorman, the commission dismissed a complaint against Republican Mark Davis over his educational achievements.

Poll workers Madison Decator, 17, left, Savannah King, 16, and Daniel Barnes, 17, learn how to set up voting machines in preparation for Election Day at the First Christian Church in Sylvania. Poll workers Madison Decator, 17, left, Savannah King, 16, and Daniel Barnes, 17, learn how to set up voting machines in preparation for Election Day at the First Christian Church in Sylvania.
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Lucas County Democratic Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler had complained that Mr. Davis’s campaign ads exaggerate the number of college degrees he has.

The state elections commission voted 3-2 to dismiss the complaint. The dismissal was termed “administrative” rather than on the merits because commission rules require four votes to take action on the merits either way, and two of the seven commission members were absent.

Also running for the seat are Democrat Michelle Wagner and independent David Toska.

Voters in Toledo also will decide six city council district races.

Countywide, renewal levies for the Toledo Zoo and Children Services Board are on the ballot, as are many school and local government levies, and city, village, township, and school board offices.

There were 5,807 votes cast at the Early Vote Center this year, which outpaced the 5,551 cast in November, 2010, a gubernatorial election, according to the Lucas County Board of Elections.

However, only about half of the 33,769 absentee voter ballots that were requested in 2010 were requested this year, according to information from the Lucas County elections board.

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



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