Kaptur campaign: ‘Time for BOE to get its act together’Written by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Despite a few incident reports and some voters potentially receiving the wrong ballots, the March 6 election went smoothly in Lucas County, one Board of Elections official said. But Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s campaign had harsh words for the Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE).
Voters who went to Reynolds Elementary School in Precinct 24-C before 1 p.m. may have received the ballot for District 5 instead of District 9, said Steve Fought, Kaptur’s campaign manager. The race for District 9 was the result of a much disputed redistricting that led to Kaptur facing fellow Democrat Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Democrat Angela Zimmann ran unopposed in District 5.
Deputy Director Dan DeAngelis of the BOE said the exact number of wrongly issued ballots hasn’t been determined yet, but Fought believed the number was about 70.
Reynolds Elementary was the location for Precinct 24-C, which is split between District 5 (24-C5) and District 9 (24-C9). However, there are no voters and mostly just trees in the portion that accounts for District 5, DeAngelis said.
The problem might have stemmed from poll workers switching encoders after the first one did not work properly. Instead of fixing the problem, the new encoder encoded ballots for 24-C5 instead of 24-C9.
“A voter or two brought that to [poll workers’] attention,” DeAngelis said. “They were wondering why Marcy Kaptur wasn’t on their ballot.”
The BOE sent two operatives to fix the situation and contacted the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) to determine what the next step was.
The SOS advised that potentially affected voters return to Reynolds to recast their votes provisionally, said Matt McClellan, press secretary for the Secretary of State’s office. Only two or three voters came back as far as he knows, DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis and McClellan said their offices will continue to look into the situation. It has yet to be determined if any Republican votes were affected, DeAngelis added.
On March 6, before results were in, Fought said the mistake could lead to legal action depending on the election’s results. However, with Kaptur’s large win over Kucinich, he said he doesn’t see much reason for legal action.
“It’s just sloppy work on the part of the Board of Elections. Voters in Lucas County have had enough of this; it’s time for the Board of Elections to get its act together,” he said.
“The only sure things in life are death, taxes and Lucas County having the worst election board in the State of Ohio,” Fought told WTOL-11.
Fought said the mistake may have been made because poll workers didn’t understand the new redistricting.
While that could have played a part in the confusion, the split precinct was a large factor, DeAngelis said. The BOE would like to get rid of split precincts for the November election, he added.
“That would be the main goal; beyond that maybe, better perhaps training,” he said.
Dennis Lange, a former booth official and BOE employee who recruited and trained Republican poll workers, said he was appalled at the mistakes he saw when he voted this cycle. He was fired last summer after Secretary of State Jon Husted ruled that he and another employee had “irreconcilable differences” with the two Republican board members.
Husted has chastised the BOE a number of times for being unable to make personnel and policy decisions. He appointed Meghan Gallagher as BOE director, a move approved by the BOE on March 2.
Lange said that ballot encoding was incorrect at his polling location, and that he and numerous other voters at the time were given the wrong party ballot.
“It’s a nightmare for me because the stuff that I taught them over the years, somebody just untaught,” he said.
DeAngelis declined to comment on Lange’s reaction, but said the number of incidents wasn’t particularly high and overall the election went “pretty smooth.”
Trouble at the polls
Michelle and Ronald Schnapp also had some difficulty at their polling location of Hawkins Elementary School. Ronald, retired, told two different people at the registration desk that he was voting Republican.
A third person programmed his card incorrectly, however.
One issue ballot appeared for Ronald when he started to vote, which he recorded, expecting the Republican candidates’ ballots to follow — however, nothing came up.
Since he had officially recorded his stance, Ronald was not able to recast his vote.
“It wasn’t my husband’s fault. All we kept getting was, ‘I’m sorry, but you recorded the vote,’” Michelle said.
“All they had to do was reprogram my card, [the worker] could stand there and watch me vote,” Ronald said. “I’d have signed anything to be able to vote.” Michelle also had issues with her card being continually rejected until a worker was able to reprogram it.
At press time, the Schnapps were still waiting to hear back from the BOE. DeAngelis said he was not familiar with the Schnapps’ case, but that he would look into it.
“I don’t take this lightly, but mistakes are going to happen and something like that is an isolated incident,” he said.
A sign informing him that his polling location was closed due to technical difficulties greeted engineer Brad Lowery when he went to the Heatherdowns Branch Library at 7:15 a.m. March 6.
“I thought it was odd that they had shut down first thing in the morning,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s necessarily the way it should have been done.”
Lowery was able to go back to that location and vote later that day when the issues had been resolved.
DeAngelis confirmed that there was a problem with polling machines that technicians were able to resolve. He said voters may have been able to vote on paper until the technicians arrived.
“We’ll be going through any and all incidents over the next few weeks,” he said. “You are going to have mistakes and errors and you never want to have any, but you look at the incidents and try to pinpoint it.”
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Caitlin McGlade contributed to this report.