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The budget gap between Summit County executive Russ Pry and the county board of elections couldn't be much wider.
Monday night, county council and Pry staffers grilled elections board director Ron Koehler on why the agency is asking for nearly $9.3 million dollars for the 2012 budget year.
Pry's proposed budget for the elections board would be $4.7 million dollars.
Koehler said costs to hold elections are going up, from higher postage to more mail-in ballots, and the board is looking at an extra primary that could take place next year.
Pry's chief of staff Jason Dodson says the board should study counties of similar size - like Lucas and Montgomery - for some cost saving guidance.
"I believe that there are certain things that Montgomery County is doing...that is going to be able to help," Dodson tells AkronNewsNow.com, "that allows them to operate at a lower cost, at a more efficient level when you look at costs per voter, and costs per ballot cast."
Summit Board Of Elections Budget by Akron NewsNow
Koehler says since he started as director in May, Summit County has been busy holding five elections.
"It's been election after election after election," Koehler tells AkronNewsNow.com. "I've not had time to go down to Lucas County or Montgomery County to look at their operation, and see how we can do things like them and save money."
Koehler says the board is always looking for more efficiencies. He says he needs the money to run three elections in 2012, But his pleas weren't getting a warm reception in council chambers.
Dodson says the county may break off funding for a second primary to a separate fund, if there is a second, June primary. The reimbursement to cover it would be from the state of Ohio. But he says the main budget for the 2012 budget year should cover the primaries that will definitely take place.
The Board of Elections was one of the last agencies making budget presentations. County council is expected to pass a yearly budget next Monday night, in a combined committee and full council meeting that's the last regularly scheduled meeting of 2011.
The Summit County Board of Elections is planning to put a big dent in the county budget. Director Ron Kohler says he needs about $9.3-million - a far cry from the $4.7-million that the county was planning to allocate. Koehler says action by the state legislature is to blame.
"They've split the primary into two elections - a March primary and a June primary - so we're going to have three countywide elections in 2012," said Koehler.
Ron Koehler with Larry States by Akron NewsNow
Koehler says an extra primary election means a lot of extra expenses: ballot printing, overtime costs, paying poll workers and more. In addition, the state is mandating that all voters receive postage-paid absentee ballot envelopes, but Koehler says it's not about the price of postage.
"The time that's involved in processing a mail-in absentee ballot request and then the ballot itself is a lot more than the time involved in processing a walk-in voter or processing a voter who comes to the polls on election day," said Koehler.
He says it's about three times as long.
There is good news that comes with the new mandate: The state plans to reimburse counties some of the cost of conducting the extra primary election.
As the elections board likely sends the county into a frenzy over how they're going to come up with the requested funds (there is little choice in the matter), much of the extra planning could be for nothing since state lawmakers are trying to work out a deal that would cancel the second primary election and have only one, which would be held in March.
Koehler will formally present his budget needs to a county council committee next week.
There should be plenty of ballots to count when the election polls close tonight at 7:30.
Summit County Board of Elections Director Ron Koehler says there are plenty of indications that voter turnout will be high.
"We're hearing reports from our troubleshooters that are out there and our booth workers who are calling us that turnout is very good today," said Koehler at around 2:30 p.m.
He says up to 15% of registered voters had already cast ballots in New Franklin and Green "by mid-morning."
AkronNewsNow reported earlier today that a higher-than-usual number of voters had checked in at precincts in Akron Wards 1 and 8.
At Fairlawn Lutheran Church, elections workers say they had lines occasionally this morning, but it had calmed down after lunch.
Turnout also seemed unusually high in the Woodridge and Nordonia Hills School Districts, where voters are determining additional operating levies as well as some precincts in Norton.
Koehler says there have been a "few minor problems" that were all quickly resolved by the board's 23-member team of troubleshooters.
The polls are open in Summit County for the 2011 general election.
One of the biggest problems that voters and elections staffers encounter on election day, according to Summit County Board of Elections Director Ron Koehler, is that some people don't know where to go to cast their ballot.
"If a person has moved and not notified us of their current address, we would like them to call us so that they know and we know that we're getting them to the right place to vote," said Koehler.
Koehler says a lot of voters may notice something a little different they they take a good look at today's ballots.
"In 273 of our 475 precincts there are write-in candidates that are on the ballot. We don't see that too often."
Heavily courted during the presidential and gubernatorial elections, younger voters weren't in the forefront this time around. AkronNewsNow talked to a handful of University of Akron students, some who say they have good reasons to vote and others who aren't interested.
"Every little bit counts," said Morgan Schneider. "You could counteract someone who's going against it or going for the cause. Every vote counts."
Fellow student Brian Dyce won't be following that line of thinking today.
"It's just not something that I'm particularly interested in right now," said Dyce.
The polls are open until 7:30 p.m.
If you have questions, call the Summit County Board of Elections at 330.643.5200.
The Summit County Board of Elections wants to know what's up with a 2-page spread that ran in Saturday's edition of the Akron Beacon Journal.
It's called "City Council News" and features items that mainly tout the accomplishments of the current city council and administration, but stops short of telling people who deserves their vote.
The advertisement does encourage people to vote a certain way on certain issues.
The problem, according to the Summit County Board of Elections, is transparency.
Although the layout looks nothing like that of the Beacon Journal, some people can't tell if it's an advertisement or news. More importantly, the board wants to know who authorized the whole things and who is paying for it.
"Then we can have this information and make a decision on what to do," said Republican Board Member Alex Arshinkoff.
The "information" he's seeking is any documentation that answers the questions.
Arshinkoff made the motion to subpoena records from various city employees. It was seconded by Democrat Wayne Jones and passed unanimously.
"We need to make sure that it was in accordance with what the current rules are and so far as how it was paid for," said Democrat Tim Gorbach.
There is an area at the bottom of the spread that resembles a masthead and it says City Council News is published by Akron City Council and produced by Highland PR.
Ohio's new election law that shortens the state's early voting period has been placed on temporary hold, which means early voting in the State will start on Tuesday.
By submitting their petitions Thursday, the opponents have halted the elections law from taking effect on Friday. That means local election officials now have to operate under the old law.
Summit County Board of Elections Deputy Director Kim Zurz says that the Board will be prepared for those voting early.
"We will be ready to help anyone coming in looking for their absentee ballots," she said.
We'll be prepared to have that ready for them and we will still following all of the revised code as it was prior to the passage of House Bill 194."
Opponents to the bill submitted more than 300,000 signatures in their effort to get a repeal question on 2012 ballots.
Zurz says one of the challenges the Board faces is making sure that candidates are circulating the correct petitions.
"Candidates will have to make sure that they have their petitions out and properly filled in," she said.
"They must file with March as their date, because we wouldn't want them to have May on their petitions and be disqualified, so we will try to get these candidates everything they need."
State elections officials must verify the signatures to see if they meet the requirements to get a referendum before voters in 2012.
With the primary election just a couple of weeks ago, Zurz thinks that a couple of hot button issues will get people to the polls before November.
"Where I think you will see the interest come is through the Senate Bill 5 issue and the health care issue, so that's where you see the high numbers come from," she explained.
"With those two issues, you would see more early voting than you would normally for a off year."
Opponents need roughly 231,000 valid signatures to get a referendum, and plan to continue circulating petitions.
Taking a look at voter turnout is not as simple as it seems.
A quick glance tells you that just under 20% of registered voters participated in Tuesday's primary election in Akron, Barberton and Stow. While that may be true, the number includes non-partisan voters - who outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined - and they typically do not participate in primary elections.
According to the Summit County Board of Elections, there are about 26,000 registered Democrats could have participated. It turns out that nearly 31,000 people cast a Democratic ballot.
"And what it was, was people who were Independents asking for a Democratic ballot and some people who were registered Republicans switching over and asking for a Democratic ballot, so we did actually have more than 100% turnout," said Koehler.
Koehler says most of the Independents and Republicans who are now technically considered Democrats because of their ballot selection were in Akron, but he doesn't know which mayoral candidate they intended to support.
PRECINCTS COUNTED (OF 206). . . . . 206 100.00
REGISTERED VOTERS - TOTAL . . . . . 158,642
REGISTERED VOTERS - DEMOCRATIC . . . 21,343 13.45
REGISTERED VOTERS - REPUBLICAN . . . 5,155 3.25
REGISTERED VOTERS - NONPARTISAN . . . 23,245 14.65
BALLOTS CAST - TOTAL. . . . . . . 30,862
BALLOTS CAST - DEMOCRATIC . . . . . 25,866 83.81
BALLOTS CAST - REPUBLICAN . . . . . 1,729 5.60
BALLOTS CAST - NONPARTISAN. . . . . 3,267 10.59
VOTER TURNOUT - TOTAL . . . . . . 19.45
VOTER TURNOUT - DEMOCRATIC. . . . .
VOTER TURNOUT - REPUBLICAN. . . . . 33.54
VOTER TURNOUT - NONPARTISAN . . . . 14.05
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