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Published: Friday, 8/17/2012

Montgomery County elections board members suspended

Southwest Ohio officials being removed by Husted

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Two Democratic members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections have been suspended after they insisted on allowing weekend hours for in-person early voting in violation of Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive setting uniform hours across the state.

Mr. Husted has begun the process of permanently removing Thomas J. Ritchie, Sr., the board’s chairman, and Dennis Lieberman from their positions. In the meantime, he broke the board’s 2-2 tie in favor of restricting early voting hours to the weekday timetable he laid out on Wednesday.

Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said the office knows of no other county that has defied the secretary of state’s directive.

The board tied 2-2 this morning on a motion from Mr. Lieberman, a former county Democratic Party chairman, to schedule office hours for in-person early voting on two Saturdays and two Sundays before the election. The Democrats supported it, and the two Republicans opposed it.

Mr. Ritchie said he expected Mr. Husted to simply exercise his tie-breaking authority to side with the Republican board members.

“He’s broken tied votes in the county before,” Mr. Ritchie said. “But instead he threatened to remove us.”

In a letter sent to Mr. Ritchie today, Mr. Husted ordered the board to reconvene to rescind the motion made by board member Dennis Lieberman, a former chairman of the county Democratic Party.

“Failure to act consistent with and voting in contravention of a directive is at best nonfeasance and subjects a board member to possible removal,” the letter concluded.

The board did reconvene, but Mr. Lieberman made it clear he had no intention of taking back his motion, and Republican members did not make a motion to rescind it, Mr. Ritchie said. The board adjourned without taking the action demanded by Mr. Husted.

“You therefore leave me no choice but to begin the process necessary to remove you as members of the Montomery County Board of Elections for nonfeasance ... as demonstrated by your actions today,” Mr. Husted wrote in letters to both Democrats today.

They’ve been ordered to appear at a hearing in his office at 9 a.m. Monday, and he stressed that the hearing will not be postponed.

Mr. Husted also released an opinion from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office backing his authority to issue a statewide directive on early voting hours and to expect the 88 county board of elections to comply.

Mr. Husted had been under fire by Democrats for breaking 2-2 ties in several urban counties, including in Lucas County, in favor Republicans’ position of not allowing early voting beyond normal business hours Monday through Friday while the boards in a number of Republican-performing counties had agreed on expanded evening or weekend hours.



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