Update 2:00 p.m.
The Summit County Board of Elections tie-voted on three motions related to early in-person voting. The board voted along party lines as follows:
- Hold early voting at the board of elections offices (Republican)
- Hold early voting at the former hhgregg near Chapel Hill Mall (Democrat)
- Hold early voting at the Beacon Journal building if the county is ordered to hold it off site (Republican)
The tie votes mean that Secretary of State Jon Husted will decide where voters can cast ballots in person, but prior to the general election on November 6.
Republicans are using budget concerns to back their philosophy, saying that the county isn't willing to offer the funding that they say is necessary to fund the board's operations, even without leasing space for voters. They refer to a letter from Summit County Executive Russ Pry offering $50,000 to pay for the added expense. Republican board members call the offer "offensive," stating that Pry is trying to use county funds to micro manage the board of elections.
Democrats say the Republican plan does nothing but disenfranchise voters by making it difficult to participate in in-person absentee voting. Parking is a concern at the board of elections offices on Grant Street. The lobby area is not spacious, either. History is on their side, looking back to the primary election in 2008 when people, at times, were lined up around the building in poor weather conditions waiting for their turn to vote. Board Chairman Tim Gorbach said during the meeting that holding early voting inside the Beacon Journal building in downtown Akron would be even worse than doing it on Grant Street.
Listen to Gorbach and Board Member Alex Arshinkoff briefly explain:
Some of the estimated 150 people spoke out during a designated time, but not before more verbal sparring on the board. Arshinkoff accused Gorbach of setting up the whole thing with "his" people, when Gorbach suggested that the various factions allow a spokesperson to offer testimony. Arshinkoff said that if one person could speak, then everyone should be given the chance.
"You can vote in person at your neighborhood poll on election day for 13 hours, absentee ballot (in the mail) or at the board of elections," said one woman. "Common sense is all we need. Off site voting is stupid and a waste of money and frivolous."
Numerous people were allowed about a minute to speak (there was some argument over who was keeping the official time). Judging by the signs that were being held, it would seem the room was divided about evenly, although the number of speakers who approached the podium seemed to favor the Democrats. The following is a random sample:
"While I understand it's important to save money, I think that spending money in order to enable people who are eligible and want to vote is anything but wasteful," said a Bath Township woman.
The board has two weeks to submit the tie votes (with arguments from each side attached) to Husted for his consideration.
A large crowd gathered at the Summit County Board of Elections meeting this morning where board members are expected to vote on a possible early voting location.
AkronNewsNow's Chris Keppler said many in the room were holding signs urging a vote either in favor and against an off-site location for early voting.
Some of the signs at the meeting said "save our taxpayer dollars" and "stop the BOE wasteful spending."
Keppler said the crowd interrupted the opening of the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, shouting out the words "for all" at the end.
Board Chairman Tim Gorbach insisted on doing the pledge "right" and led the crowd in a second pledge.
It appears both sides of the issue are represented at the meeting.
Akron City Council said the need for a off-site voting location is necessary due to the fact that board's offices on Grant Street would present problems with parking and lines.