Board of Elections Democrats, Republicans Deadlocked Over Absentee Ballot Application Mailings

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The Franklin County Board of Elections today could again discuss whether to mail absentee ballot applications for the August 4th special election.

Columbus voters will decide next month whether to raise the city’s income tax, and early balloting is underway. But voters are not automatically receiving absentee ballot applications in the mail. That’s because of a vote along partly lines that deadlocked the Franklin County Board of Elections.

The two Democrats and two Republicans on the Franklin County Board of Elections voted in May along party lines regarding the mailing of absentee ballot applications. The Republicans voted for the mailings, the democrats voted against. Normally, the Secretary of State would break such a tie, but not this time. Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, says that the matter involves not just Franklin County but a few precincts in Fairfield and Delaware Counties. Her spokesman Jeff Ortega:

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has significant legal concerns about equal protection considerations with respect to this issue. As you know, the city of Columbus extends into other counties and if there wasn’t any coordination with those counties in terms of the absentee ballot applications being sent out, voters in those other counties could have some equal protection issues with respect to city of Columbus voters who are within Franklin County. Brunner, the Democrat, declined to break the tie. Meanwhile, the Republican chairman of the Franklin County board of elections, Doug Preisse, calls it “politics.”

The democrats voted no, don’t send out the absentee ballot applications. We the Republicans voted yes, send them out. I’ve had no indications from the Democratic side that they’ve changed their position which we think frankly is a little hypocritical, perhaps a lot hypocritical

Democrat Joseph Mas is the newest member of the Franklin County Board of Elections

“Well I guess my question is, why is it that the Republicans want to spend the money to send the additional ballots out? I don’t think any members of the board, whether they be Democrat or Republican, have a problem with enlarging the way with which people can submit votes,” Mas says. “But to do it on a piecemeal basis – particularly on a special election – I think is a mistake and I think in addition to that it represents costs that are going to be charged back to the city that the city can ill afford. And I was always up front that this was an issue of cost.”

It’s also a matter of past practice. During the past five years, the board of elections has never sent absentee ballot applications to all registered voters for special elections and referendums. Such a mailing for the August 4th election would cost an estimated $307,000.

Even though the board may take up the matter again, time, according to elections director Michael Stinziano is running out

“The issue has not died but given the timing of things it doesn’t look like we’ll be doing the mailing,” Stinziano says.

The proposed income tax increase will be on the ballot in 528 Franklin County precincts.

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