The Summit County Board of Elections is at odds over how to proceed with investigating a newspaper ad placed by Akron City Council last year.
It was designed to look like actual news coverage, titled Akron City Council News. The problem, according to Elections Board Member Alex Arshinkoff, is that governments can't tell people how to vote.
"If the Akron City Council can campaign against Issue 2, then what's to stop the state government or some township or anyone else from telling people to vote for Issue 2," said Arshinkoff.
The material urged defeat of Issue 2 and passage of some other issues. It also featured certain, but not all, candidates for Akron City Council.
The elections board previously voted to hold a public hearing that would determine if the matter was referred to the prosecutor and the sheriff for further investigation. Today, the board recorded a tie-vote on whether to rescind the previous vote.
Not only did the Republican board members want to move forward, they also wanted to expand the amount of material that could be obtained through a public records request of the city of Akron. That came up because Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville was quoted in the Beacon Journal as saying that a similar approach has been used for years. That comment prompted a discussion on whether to ask for previous copies of Akron City News for the last six years.
There was disagreement and lengthy discussions about the scope of information to be sought as well as the authority of the board. At one point, Arshinkoff wanted to hear the motion that ended in a tie to make sure everyone understood the exact wording. The recording device used required that the file be downloaded to a computer system on a different floor before the it could be heard. The process took more than 30 minutes.
Board Chairman Tim Gorbach said he was concerned about abusing the board's power to subpoena.
Democrats stood firm, so the tie-vote will have to be broken by the secretary of state.