Troubled election board in Ohio under microscope

JOHN SEEWER Associated Press Published:

TOLEDO (AP) -- Ohio's elections director will be taking a close look at one of the state's largest counties, where a series of missteps and squabbling among election board members delayed voting results for hours in this past week's primary.

The latest trouble comes on top of several years of infighting and accusations of wrongdoing within the Lucas County's elections board.

Secretary of State Jon Husted called the situation there the worst he's faced from an elections board. "There's not even a close second," he said.

A committee appointed by Husted in early April to look into the board's operations recommended Friday that the county's top two elections officials be fired and that three of its four board members be replaced.

Scott Borgemenke, who led the committee, said the county elections board has been given several chances to make changes but continues to be pulled down by dissension and lack of leadership.

"We don't know what else to do," he said. "The only way to move forward is to start over."

It will be up to the secretary of state to decide whether to do that.

"The sooner we fix the problem, the better," Husted said a day before the committee made its decision.

He already has shown a willingness to step in to remove election board members. He got rid of two in Putnam County last year after a judge ruled that board had regularly violated open meeting laws. He also fired two of Montgomery County's board members in 2012 in a dispute over weekend voting hours.

Frustration with the Lucas County board has been building.

Consultants put in place by Husted suggested just over a year ago that the board fire its director and deputy director and make other organizational changes.

"They've implemented very little of the guidance," he said.

Since the beginning of March, the board fired its previous elections director, citing low morale and high employee turnover; faced accusations of misspending money; and opened an investigation into whether one of the board members encouraged an employee to work slowly.

It only got worse during Tuesday's primary election.

A dispute arose about missing data cards that led to shouting between two board members, and other problems delayed the vote count.

Lucas County was last in the state to post final results and didn't finish counting write-in ballots until midmorning Wednesday despite a small voter turnout.

Board members Jon Stainbrook, a Republican, and Ron Rothenbuhler, a Democrat, said they were not surprised by the committee's decision and agreed it was time for a change even though they could be replaced.

"We have been given plenty of opportunity," Rothenbuhler said.

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