Redistricting turmoil culminates in Tuesday’s special election


WAPAKONETA – Michelle Wilcox won’t be enjoying elephant ears and corndogs at the Auglaize County Fair this week.

Instead, the director of the Auglaize County Board of Elections will organize a primary election that was not even supposed to take place in August. Its largest polling station will not be open at the fairgrounds, where it has been for years. Most of his voters aren’t even in the same state representative district they’ve been in for 10 years.

“Auglaize County was fortunate to be one of the counties that was divided (during the redistricting),” Wilcox said. “It really confused voters. Even in the May 3 election, voters showed up here to vote in these races. I think all of this just confuses voters.

“You don’t know what constituency you are in. They get flyers from candidates, and then they come here hoping to vote for a certain candidate. And maybe it’s not their neighborhood anymore because of the redistricting.

Redistricting has been the gift that continues to be given to exhausted election workers. The good news is that election officials in the region say they are ready for it, even though most only expect around 20% turnout.

“We go through just as much work to put on something like this, and we’d love to see people take advantage of it and vote,” said Allen County Board of Elections Kathy Meyer.

In-person voting is open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, though people can still vote at county election boards from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. As of Friday, 1,905 ballots had already been cast in person or by mail-in ballot in the region’s five counties.

“Ohio is a national leader in making voting accessible and convenient, while maintaining security throughout the process and providing accurate, audited results,” said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. , in a press release. “Whether Ohioans choose to vote early in person, by mail-in ballot, or at their polling place on Election Day, each of these options makes participating in our democratic process easy and inclusive.”

How we got here

In case you missed it, here’s a short story on why there’s a statewide election in August: Ohio redistributes its state and federal representatives every 10 years after every U.S. census . A new redistricting commission drew up several plans, which were rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court for not being sufficiently balanced. A federal court ultimately ruled Ohioans should vote in 2022 with the maps originally approved by the state House and Senate, though the maps were ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

By the time all of this happened, it was too late to put those races on the May ballot. Instead, voters have a rare primary in August to choose who could represent them in the Ohio House and Senate.

Adding to the confusion, there are only two incumbents in the region’s four House districts. And one of them, Susan Manchester, finds her district moved significantly north in Allen County, where voters will choose her or Dr. JJ Sreenan as a Republican with no Democratic opposition in November to replace the Speaker of the House, Bob Cupp. Cupp can no longer run due to term limits.

Voters can also choose their party’s representatives to the central state committee. One Senate district is on the ballot, Robert McColley’s 1st District (all of Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Williams counties and parts of Auglaize, Fulton and Logan counties ), but he is unopposed in the primary and general elections.

move things

The supplementary election had its share of obstacles.

Auglaize County traditionally had its largest polling place at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds. With rides, food, and agricultural exhibits during the county fair, that’s not an option. Those voters should instead go to the Grand Plaza, 913 Defiance St., Wapakoneta. There will be signs on the fairgrounds directing people to the new site, just in case.

Allen County was able to secure the same sites, just different locations. The voting location at Allen East High School will now be in the small gymnasium. One at Shawnee Alliance Church has moved into the activities building across the street. Another of the Spencerville schools moved into high school.

Voters in Putnam and Van Wert counties will be able to vote at their regular polling places, officials said.

A costly challenge

Fortunately, counties in the region do not plan to fall behind financially because of the election. The state provided grants exceeding $632,000 to conduct elections in Allen, Auglaize, Hardin, Putnam, and Van Wert counties. This will help pay for the supplies, staff and overtime needed to organize Tuesday’s election.

That’s not much comfort to the taxpayers, who funded those state grants, said Chelsea Clark, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state in the November election.

“It’s simple. We’re holding an election on August 2 that will cost the taxpayers of this state $20 million or more, and Frank LaRose is responsible,” Clark said in a press release. may bumped up the taxpayers tab another $9 million And Frank LaRose is spending over $300,000 on self-promoting public service announcements because he failed in his original duties to fully inform voters of this special election. Give taxpayers a break!”

Things could have been worse locally. Counties here waited for the federal decision before printing May ballots. Some counties had already printed theirs before the May election, which meant they had to throw them away.

“We received over $169,000 for this special election that we can use for all expenses for this election,” Allen County’s Meyer said. “Legislators have granted this money, and we will be able to use it for election workers’ compensation, ballots, everything related to this election.”

Find the volunteers

It has always been a challenge to pair a Democrat and a Republican at every polling place to keep elections fair. There was a new enemy with the August election: the holidays.

“There are a lot of people on vacation in August,” said Karen Warnecke, director of the Putnam County Board of Elections. “I don’t know if it was really difficult. I just had to call on the list, you know? If people were on vacation, you keep scrolling through the list until it’s full.

All counties in the region have enough voters to hold the elections, as long as no one gets sick. There are backups in place, just in case.

“We’re always running out of those, especially since it’s mostly Republicans here,” said Van Wert County Board of Elections director Pam Henderson. “It’s a bit hit and miss with people who might be on vacation, might be sick, might not be able to help now but will be working in November.”

Exhausted workers

The biggest cost could be the enthusiasm of election workers. The August election cuts into the time they would have to work on the November general election, which includes federal and state issues and local issues.

“People think we only work two days a year,” said Wilcox of Auglaize County. “Right now, with this election, we have an average of 200 overtime hours. We work 11 or 12 hour days now. If we have provisionals that voters need to care for, we will actually work 20 consecutive days. …

“I guess what I’m saying is we probably won’t be going to the fair this year.”

Redistricting turmoil culminates in Tuesday’s special election

Contact David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.


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