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Published: Wednesday, 8/29/2012

Secretary of state fires 2 officials for ignoring directive

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- Secretary of State Jon Husted on Tuesday followed through with his threat to fire two Dayton-area elections officials who insisted on weekend early voting hours in violation of his statewide directive to the contrary.

"Board members are free to express their discontent with any Directive or Advisory issued, but they cannot disobey them," Mr. Husted, a Republican, wrote in a letter to Montgomery County Board of Elections Chairman Thomas J. Ritchie, Sr., and board member Dennis Lieberman, both Democrats.

"Your dismissal is not about differing views; it is about you violating the law by not following a Directive," Mr. Husted wrote. "You were given subsequent chances to comply and refused to take corrective action."

The two board members said they are considering a legal challenge.

"SOS Husted has acted rashly every step of the way, so today's decision is unfortunate yet not unexpected," Mr. Ritchie said. "The losers here are the voters and our democracy. Voters want the polls open on weekends and evenings, so give the people what they want."

Jon Allison, a hearing officer contracted by the secretary of state's office, confirmed Mr. Husted's authority to fire the two after a hearing and recommended that he do so. He said the two men knew they were acting in defiance of Mr. Husted's directive that all 88 counties have the same early voting hours. That directive included expanded weekday hours but made no mention of weekends.

Mr. Husted represented portions of Montgomery County in both the Ohio House and Senate.

The county board had deadlocked 2-2 on the scheduling of weekend hours for in-person early voting two days after Mr. Husted issued his directive.

The two Democrats supported weekend voting; the two Republicans opposed it.

Ohioans may begin to cast absentee ballots by mail or in person on Oct. 2.

A number of legal battles are being waged in connection with the casting of ballots before Election Day and counting them afterward.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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