The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 1, 2013

Panel votes ‘no’

Elections board disagrees with Claypool

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON —  Members of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections on Wednesday took issue with a county commissioner’s recent criticism of the board’s budget.

Last week, Commissioner Daniel Claypool described the “unreasonableness” of the election board’s budget request in a non-presidential election year. Ultimately, the original request was shaved $12,000 to $795,637, which is $200,000 more compared to the previous year. At the meeting, Claypool said he if could, the election board appropriation would have been singled out for a separate vote.

Claypool’s tone apparently irked some election board personnel. “I think his statements were wrong,” said Carol Lovas, director.

Board member Myra Brown was more feisty. “(Claypool) couldn’t do a month’s work in this office,” she said.

A variety of factors prompted the bigger budget request, members agreed at Wednesday’s meeting. Mandates regarding elections prompted additional work and expenditures, they said.

“There were changes that upped our budget,” Lovas said.

Board members agreed.

“If we didn’t have elections, we could figure our budget down to the penny,” said board member Charlie Frye. “There are things you have to be flexible with.”

“So many of our expenses are unknown,” said Luanne Laakso. “But (the commissioners) have a job to do. We have to be fair.”

Over the past few years, the board has been able to return money to the county, partly because of grants received and unexpected payment for training expenses, members noted. The $12,000 reduction this year resulted from dialog between the office and Commissioner Peggy Carlo, who last week vouched for the agreement.

Duane Feher, election board deputy director and a former commissioner, tried to soothe ruffled feelings. Commissioners last year gave the election office $52,000 more than the preceding year, he said.

“Things get frustrating at times,” Feher said.

Joseph Varckette, election board chairman, said he felt the group has done a “good job communicating the needs of the department.”

“That’s why we’ve been able to give money back,” he said.

In other business, the board approved a series of motions aimed at the May 7 primary election. Members:

• Certified petitions for Ashtabula City Council submitted by Alice Cook (Ward 3, Republican), Josephine Misener (Ward 4, Republican), and Ward 5 hopefuls Kris Hamrick (Democrat) and Jack Bales (Republican)

• Approved a bid from Election Systems and Software to prepare ballots at a cost of 23 cents for the first page and 20 cents for the second page. Some 25,000 ballots for the 70 precincts impacted by the election will be printed.

• Agreed to pay Black Eagle Moving Co. of Ashtabula, $3,500 to transport tabulating machines and voting booths to polling places

• Will spend an estimated $1,200 to rent two computer tablets equipped with special software to see if they can help workers at two of the county’s biggest polling places direct voters to their precincts more quickly and efficiently. The tablets will be used on a trial basis, members agreed. “It could help cut down on confusion,” Frye said.

• Agreed to buy 104 wheeled carts — one for each precinct in the county — for workers to transport ballots and other election material to and from Jefferson. The bags now in use are too bulky and heavy to be hoisted by older workers, Lovas has said. The carts, which are equipped with a folding handle, will cost about $100 each.