by Tim Troglen | Reporter
Presidents of three Summit County League of Women Voters chapters hope a letter to members of the County Board of Elections will encourage them to fix problems voters encountered during the Nov. 6 general election.
Voters throughout the county saw long lines, overworked poll workers, broken ballot scanners and confusion about polling locations, the LWV reported in its letter.
It was signed by Karin Swedenborg, president of the LWV Hudson, Nancy Treichler of LWV Tallmadge, and Tina Merlitti, president of the LWV Akron.
The LWV blames some of the problems on the Board of Elections’ cost-cutting measures earlier in the year, which reduced the number of precincts in the county from 196 in March to 151 in November. Hudson went from 23 polling locations to 13.
“We are concerned because it appears that the voters and precinct workers of Summit County paid a big price for the reduction in precincts and polling locations,” the letter reads.
Board of Elections Deputy Director Kimberly Zurz said she feared some of these issues would happen when the board reduced the polling locations.
“There are the same number of voters in a smaller location,” she said.
Zurz said she appreciated LWV members observing the election process and submitting their findings to the board.
“They are probably very solid suggestions that the board should consider as we move forward and make our decisions,” Zurz said. “I give them a great deal of credit, from my perspective, for being that check and balance out there.”
The board had already heard similar complaints on Election Day and the days following from observers from the LWV, Zurz said.
“I hope when we go back and revisit some of these issues the board makes some considerations for some changes,” Zurz said. “But that’s a decision for the board and I, unfortunately, am not a board member and I can’t speak for what they will or won’t be able to do.”
Democratic Board of Elections Chair Timothy N. Gorbach said he feared there would be problems on Election Day.
Gorbach agreed with the LWV on several of the issues. He said they will be discussed by board members sometime after the election results are finalized Nov. 27.
Almost two-thirds of Ohio voters wanted to cast their ballots in person, Gorbach said.
“I’m one of them. I like to case my ballot in person,” he said. “And I don’t think I should be penalized for wanting to do that.”
It is up to the boards to make sure the voters have a pleasant voting experience, Gorbach said.
He agreed that more poll workers were needed.
“Our poll workers were worked just to death,” Gorbach said. “They didn’t get any breaks. It was just a steady stream of folks.”
However, Gorbach said “it wasn’t a surprise.”
“It was frustrating to me to hear a lot of these comments that we were not ready,” he said. “But we did the best we could.”
There were also problems getting the proper voting location notifications to voters, according to Gorbach. Some locations had changed since the primary election, he said.
“I appreciated them [LWV] coming, and some of their issues were dead on,” Gorbach said.
Gorbach said the issues will be looked at.
“It is a process,” he added.
Board members Alex R. Arshinkoff and Ray L. Weber, both Republicans, and Wayne M. Jones did not immediately return calls before press time.
The LWV offered suggestions to help alleviate future election problems:
• Adding extra poll workers to locations with a high elderly and handicapped area;
• Placing larger signs at tables;
• Not changing voting locations during a presidential election;
• Providing more information on what can and cannot be used for acceptable identification;
• Treating poll workers as humanely as any employee in the business world, allowing for adequate breaks;
• Providing more training for poll workers on using the scanning machines; and
• Better access for wheelchairs and a uniform procedure for gathering the votes.
“While much improvement has been made, the timing of the reduction of precincts and polling locations compromised this good work,” the letter read. “We hope, however, that by the next presidential election, Summit County will have addressed these problems and all voters will be able to vote more easily and the stress and workload of the poll workers will be reduced.”
The official report on the Nov. 6 election was forwarded to the LWV Ohio office for their review, according to Belinda Wing of the LWV Hudson.