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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Elections board picks location for early votes

North Toledo site is 3-0 selection  

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's Note: This version corrects Pete Gerken's position to president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners.

Under a deadline from the Ohio Secretary of State, the Lucas County Board of Elections ended its standoff on a location for a 2012 early vote center Tuesday, selecting a YMCA building in North Toledo.

The board voted 3-0, with one board position vacant, to hold in-person early voting in a former child-care facility on the campus of the YMCA of Greater Toledo, 1500 N. Superior St., known as Summit Plaza.

The Lucas County board of commissioners followed suit quickly to launch negotiations in order to be ready for early voting for President and other offices and ballot questions that starts, under state law, Oct. 2.

"It's kind of late in the game We're in the eighth inning. The staff is going to have to hustle to get this set up Oct. 2," said Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners.

The Summit Plaza also houses the YMCA's metro offices and recreation facilities. Then-candidate Barack Obama worked out in the gym and played pickup basketball at the Summit YMCA during a stop in the Toledo area in 2008.

The elections board in August deadlocked on six locations, with the two Democrats and two Republicans facing off in each of those votes.

In a letter to the electionsboard last week, Secretary of State Jon Husted declined to break the tie votes and ordered the board to meet and reach agreement on a new site by this Friday, because early voting must begin Oct. 2 under state law.

The vote came at a time in which one of two Democratic board seats is vacant, because of the resignation last month of lawyer Keila Cosme.

The situation would have allowed the two Republicans, Jon Stainbrook and Tony DeGidio, to control a 2-1 majority vote for a location of their choice, but they did not.

"We need an early vote center so we took off our political hats and said we have to come up with a location we can all live with," Mr. Stainbrook said.

He said the Summit YMCA — on the campus of the former Riverside Hospital — is a cost-efficient site because of its proximity to the board of elections' offices, and is not an advantage to the Democrats by being within a few blocks of Democratic headquarters, as the 2008 early voting center was.

The Republicans were trying to find a location on the outskirts of the city or in a suburb where Republican voters are more plentiful.

"When you get a letter from the Secretary of State saying it's up to you guys, when the big boss says figure it out and hits the stopwatch button, you figure it out," Mr. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Gerken welcomed the board's unanimous agreement as a reversal of its previous partisan sniping.

"Maybe they've turned a corner. Maybe it took two special masters from the Secretary of State," Mr. Gerken said, referring to the two officials assigned by Mr. Husted in August to provide daily oversight of the board.

Mr. Gerken said the space is about 14,000 square feet, and the building and site have the attributes they were looking for in an early-vote location, such as being near a bus line and having off-street parking space as well as Internet and phone wiring.

It also has a drop-off area with a canopy at the entrance.

Acting County Administrator Peter Ujvagi said the rent will probably end up between $3,000 and $4,000 a month for a minimum of three months to collect the votes and then count them.

The YMCA issued a statement saying they were approached by the board of elections about providing space for in-person early voting.

"We are pleased to provide the space for all Lucas County residents to have an opportunity to participate in the political process," the YMCA statement said.

Also Tuesday, the board of elections learned from its staff that a petition drive to put a Lucas County charter question on the Nov. 6 ballot has fallen short of the needed 14,483 signatures by 2,522 signatures.

The volunteer group was seeking voter approval of a new charter to replace the existing county commissioner form of government with a county executive form of government.

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



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