election

Scruci responds to anonymous mailer about bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci has been talking himself hoarse about the school bond issue on the November ballot. Monday evening he took the pitch to Bowling Green City Council. In the audience were several teachers and school board members showing their support. But in addition to explaining the 6-mill bond issue, Scruci also had to spend time dispelling what he called untruths in an anonymous mailer being sent out to district residents. The mailer criticized the school district for not being open about the tax issue, and for not being honest about the costs to taxpayers. Scruci did not hold back. “I hope when you and your neighbors get this, you put it where it belongs, and that’s the trash,” he said. “It’s not worth the paper it was printed on.” “We’ve been transparent from day one,” said Scruci, who has been making almost daily presentations about the bond issue. The superintendent said the numbers printed on the mailers were false – painting a far worse picture of how much taxpayers will owe if it passes. That’s just not right, he said. “You can mess with me, but this is messing with the kids,” Scruci said. Though the mailers are from an anonymous source, a few people in the City Council audience believed Bowling Green businessman Bud Henschen may have been behind the material. When called after the council meeting, Henschen said that he was the person who sent out the 8,400 mailers. His motivation was simply to alert the public about the school bond issue, he claimed. “A lot of people didn’t even know there was a school issue coming up,” Henschen said. “That was the intent.” “Everybody who owns real estate is going to get hit by this thing. Let’s let everybody know about it,” he said. When it was mentioned that Scruci has held many meetings about the issue, Henschen said that city folks were getting the information, but not the rural residents. Scruci just held an open meeting last week to explain the issue and answer questions from the farming community. Though school officials felt otherwise, Henschen said the mailers were not negative toward the bond issue. “They didn’t say ‘vote yes,’ and didn’t say ‘vote no.’” But Henschen acknowledged that he will likely vote against the bond issue. “Personally, I’m probably not in favor of it.”…


Scruci fields questions from farming community on bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci faced a tough crowd Monday evening – members of the local farming community, looking for information on the school district’s 6-mill bond request for buildings. The bond issue could be a hard sell to farmers, since owners of large amounts of acreage will be among those most affected by the property tax on the November ballot. This was the third time the superintendent has met with members of the farming community. And each time he has not pushed for them to pass the bond issue. Instead, Scruci has suggested they ask themselves two questions. “Does this help move the community forward and is it good for kids?” Then came the tougher one. “Can you afford it?” “We know there are people in this community who can’t afford it,” Scruci said. And they have to cast their votes accordingly. That doesn’t mean they are against the school district or the students, he added. But the district cannot wait until everyone in the district can afford new schools, he said. “This community will never grow and our kids will not get what kids in every other district in our area are getting,” Scruci said. The superintendent fielded questions about why the district can’t use an income tax, which wouldn’t hurt local farmers as much. An income tax cannot be used to pay for a building project, he explained. What about an increase in sales tax, someone asked. The schools have no way to increase sales tax, Scruci said. One man said the length of the bond issue – 37 years – poses a problem for smaller farmers. “Can we sustain it, with our current income? It’s highly unlikely,” the farmer said. Another farmer questioned why BGSU students, who are temporary residents in Bowling Green with no property tax responsibilities, would be allowed to vote on the school bond issue. “College kids are allowed to vote on it? That ain’t right,” he said. “There’s a lot of problems with the way schools are funded,” Scruci said. One woman in the crowd thanked Scruci for being transparent. “I don’t feel like you’re trying to trick us,” she said. Scruci also explained why Bowling Green was not using state help on the project. The state formula for aiding building projects ranks Bowling Green as an affluent district based on the number of…


Two sides at odds over proposed BG charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Words matter. The proposed Bowling Green charter amendment is intended to give the community rights to a healthy environment and livable climate. But while that may be the intent, critics say the words go far beyond those reasonable rights. The wording of the charter amendment may be difficult for voters to digest. The supporters interpret it as giving citizens a right to peaceably protest projects such as the Nexus pipeline that is planned near Bowling Green’s water treatment plant. But others see the wording as so open to interpretation that it goes far beyond what most city residents would want. It hardly seems possible the two sides of the Bowling Green charter amendment issue are talking about the same two pages of text when they describe the proposal. Lisa Kochheiser and Brad Holmes, of the Bowling Green Climate Protectors, see the charter amendment as a way for citizens to intervene if the city does not adequately protect its citizens from harm to their environment. “We’re not trying to overthrow the government. We want to strengthen our government by adding to citizen rights,” Holmes said. The majority of people don’t want pipelines in or near their communities, he said. “This is going to be the most tangible way of people legally protesting.” City attorney Mike Marsh doesn’t want pipeline in the city either. And if there were a ballot issue to not allow Nexus on city land, he would support it. But the charter amendment goes far beyond that, he said. “It’s a far reaching, almost anarchy type of proposal,” Marsh said. “It allows citizens on their own to take actions they deem necessary to protect the environment. It’s up to anybody’s interpretation.” Kochheiser said the charter amendment will allow citizens to protest a pipeline or other threats to the environment by peaceful protests, like a sit-in or forming of human chains. “This gives us the right to do it without the threat of being thrown in jail,” she said. “We’re not going to be throwing rocks. We’re not going to be looting,” Holmes said. But the charter amendment draws no lines at the types of “non-violent direct action” that would be allowed. If people found the transportation of fuel tanker trucks to be a threat, “you could have a sit-in on I-75,” Marsh said. “That would be non-violent, but it would create…


Anti-pipeline charter amendment now in limbo

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The legal battle to get an anti-pipeline charter amendment on Bowling Green’s ballot has come down to two sides – those who want to stop the pipeline and those who would want the jobs building it. On Thursday morning, the petition submitted by citizen activists worried about the effect of Nexus pipeline on the city’s water plant was challenged by a Bowling Green man who is a member of the local plumber-pipefitter union. The Wood County Board of Elections took information from both sides and will come back with a decision. Last week, the Wood County Board of Elections voted to allow the November ballot to include the controversial charter amendment. However, then a Bowling Green resident, David W. Espen, filed a protest with the board of elections about the charter amendment. Espen was not present at Thursday’s hearing, but was represented by the Columbus law firm McTigue & Colombo. Espen’s objections cite two possible problems with the charter amendment petition – one questioning the number of valid signatures, and the other questioning the authority of the city to grant the power requested in the petition. The complaint zeroed in on five specific signatures. Normally, that might not matter if a handful of signatures were found to be invalid. However, the pipeline petition had only one more signature than required to appear on the ballot. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. The five signatures in question are from Bowling Green State University students who live on campus and therefore have dual addresses of their residence halls and of street addresses. Terry Burton, of the Wood County Board of Elections, testified that the board cross checks street addresses and dorm addresses, and allows either for students when they register and cast ballots during elections. The Ohio Secretary of State appears to support this process, according to Terry Lodge, attorney for the citizens behind the petition. However, Donald McTigue disagreed. “The law requires you to put down your street address,” not university residence hall, McTigue said after the hearing. “The law clearly requires that they have the legal street address.” On the second challenge, McTigue said the charter amendment exceeds the city’s role allowed in the Ohio Constitution. The protest claims the issue…


Pipeline charter amendment faces another challenge

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The effort to get a pipeline charter amendment on the ballot for Bowling Green voters is facing another challenge. Last week, the Wood County Board of Elections voted to allow the November ballot to include the charter amendment, which was petitioned for by people opposed to pipelines that could negatively affect the city. However, this week the charter amendment faces a new challenge. A Bowling Green resident, David W. Espen, has filed a protest with the board of elections about the charter amendment. Espen’s objections cite two possible problems with the charter amendment petition, according to Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton. First, Espen claims the petition did not have a sufficient number of valid signatures. His complaint questions five specific signatures. Normally, that might not matter if a handful of signatures were found to be invalid. However, the pipeline petition had only one more signature than required to appear on the ballot. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. Second, Espen is challenging whether or not the charter amendment exceeds the city’s role allowed in the Ohio Constitution. The protest claims the issue goes beyond the limits permitted to municipalities, Burton said. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning at 8:30, in the fifth floor hearing room of the Wood County Office Building. Espen is being represented by the Columbus law firm McTigue & Colombo. The group supporting the petition will be represented by Toledo area attorney Terry Lodge. “The Charter Amendment belongs on the ballot,” citizen activist Lisa Kochheiser said after the latest challenge was filed. Burton said if the decision on this challenge is appealed, the issue will go straight to the Ohio Supreme Court. Last week, the board of elections voted with three in favor of the charter amendment being placed on the ballots. John Cuckler, Dick Newlove and Mike Zickar voted in favor, while Mike Marsh recused himself since he is the city attorney for Bowling Green. “This board has traditionally, philosophically had a tendency to put things on the ballot and not keep them off,” Newlove said prior to last week’s vote. Prior to last week’s decision, Kochheiser urged the board to let Bowling Green citizens vote on the issue. “I speak for the…


Pipeline petition cleared to appear on BG ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Board of Elections voted this morning to let Bowling Green voters decide the fate of a pipeline charter amendment. It may then be up to the courts to decide of the amendment is constitutional. The board voted with three in favor – John Cuckler, Dick Newlove and Mike Zickar. Mike Marsh recused himself since he is the city attorney for Bowling Green. “This board has traditionally, philosophically had a tendency to put things on the ballot and not keep them off,” Newlove said prior to the vote. After the vote, Newlove said a new state law (House Bill 463) does add some complexities to the process since it asks local entities to decide if ballot issues are constitutional. In this case, it charges the board to determine if the charter amendment is asking the city to give citizens rights that the city has no authority to give. “The new law does kind of put us in a difficult position,” Newlove said. “Our attitude was to let the voters decide.” Zickar agreed. “They did all of the work collecting signatures and meeting deadlines,” he said. “We wanted to let the people to decide.” Ultimately, however, it may be up the courts to decide if the charter amendment is constitutional. Prior to the decision this morning, citizen activist Lisa Kochheiser asked the board to let Bowling Green citizens vote on the issue. “I speak for the people of Bowling Green who want to protect their community from corporations, like Nexus pipeline,” Kochheiser said. Kochheiser told the board of elections that they had no legal standing to keep it off the ballot. Since they are not elected officials, “it is not legally possible for you to tell us what is best for us,” she said. “Is it legal for a pipeline like Nexus to poison the people of Bowling Green,” she said. “You will be denying our right to protect our community. The Bowling Green charter amendment belongs on the ballot.” Kochheiser warned that organizers would take the petition to the Ohio Supreme Court if the local board of elections rejected the issue for the ballot. Sally Medbourn Mott also defended the ballot issue. “I just hope you guys will let people vote on the issue,” she said, reminding the board members of their commitment to “government for the people, of the…


Petition against gerrymandering is taken to the streets

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The League of Women Voters wants to make it as easy as possible for voters to take a stand against gerrymandering. So on Saturday, the organization set up drive-thru petition signing locations across the region – with one in the parking lot of the Wood County District Public Library in Bowling Green. The project called “Fair Districts = Fair Elections,” is a non-partisan effort by the Ohio League of Women Voters to place a redistricting amendment on the 2018 ballot across the state. If the petition effort is successful, Ohio voters will have an opportunity to end gerrymandering – the practice of congressional districts being drawn to favor one political party over another. Joan Callecod, of Bowling Green, said citizens don’t need to be persuaded to sign the petition. “They hear the word ‘gerrymandering,’ and they say, ‘Show me the petition,’” Callecod said Saturday as she sat outside the library with other local League of Women Voters members. To get the issue on the November 2018 ballot, 306,000 valid signatures must be collected statewide. But Callecod explained the criteria is more specific than that. At least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties must collect signatures from a minimum of 5 percent of their voters in the last gubernatorial election. In Wood County, that’s about 1,700 signatures. During the first month of volunteers collecting signatures, more than 100,000 were gathered, Callecod said. The ultimate goal is to get congressional districts lines drawn so that the elections aren’t decided even before the votes are cast. “An expanded board would have minority participation and required approval of the proposed map,” Callecod said. That proposed map would also be available for public viewing before it is approved. “We’re trying to make it more open.” Politicians from both sides of the aisle support the measure. “The way it is right now, it just intensifies the divisiveness,” Callecod said. “Under gerrymandering, instead of the voters choosing the legislators, the legislators chose their voters.” Also collecting signatures outside the library on Saturday were Char Scherer and Joyce Kepke, other League of Women Voters members. “I’d like to see fairer elections, thank you,” Scherer said. “The voters deserve the opportunity to have a fair election and to really make their votes count – and they don’t now,” Kepke said. That not only makes it difficult for candidates of different parties to…


BG Council approves pipeline charter amendment for ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The petition to get a pipeline issue on Bowling Green’s November ballot cleared another hurdle Monday evening, when City Council voted unanimously to submit the petition to the Wood County Board of Elections to put the issue on the November ballot. But council member Bob McOmber cautioned that unanimous support of putting the issue on the ballot did not mean City Council endorsed the measure. Council’s action was simply a formality to get the matter on the ballot, he said. This was the second hurdle passed by the pipeline petition. The first was cleared Friday – just barely. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. But two other hurdles remain. One involves timing. There is some question if the pipeline petition was filed too late. There are different deadlines depending on the type of petition, so that issue will likely be decided by the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The other involves content. It’s possible the petition won’t make the November ballot because it asks for powers that the city may not have the authority to give. Under Ohio House Bill 463, passed last year, the petition may not be within the purview of the city and may create constitutional conflicts. City Attorney Mike Marsh said it will be up to the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office – not the city – to rule whether or not the petition was filed on time, and if the language of the charter amendment meets standards. Three people spoke before City Council Monday evening, about the Nexus pipeline. Jennifer Karches repeated her plea that the city file a motion to intervene with the project. The other two, Brad Holmes and Laura Sanchez, asked that citizens be given a right to vote on the charter amendment. “It’s important for all of us to take a stand,” Holmes said. “Most, if not all of us in this very room, get our water from the same source.” And the Nexus pipeline would threaten that source of water, he said. “We’re being impacted by Nexus and we’re being run over by corporations,” Sanchez said. She asked for a fair discussion on the charter amendment, and support from the city. Council president Mike Aspacher reacted by claims by Holmes that the city…


Pipeline petition passes signature test …. but more obstacles remain

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The petition to get a pipeline issue on Bowling Green’s November ballot cleared its first hurdle Friday – just barely. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. But two other hurdles remain. The second hurdle involves timing. There is some question if the pipeline petition was filed too late. There are different deadlines depending on the type of petition, so that issue will likely be decided by the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The third hurdle involves content. It’s possible the petition won’t make the November ballot because it asks for powers that the city may not have the authority to give. Under Ohio House Bill 463, passed last year, the petition may not be within the purview of the city and may create constitutional conflicts. It will be up to the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office to also determine whether or not the charter amendment meets H.B. 463 requirements. “We’re going to take all this to them as we go through the process,” explained Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. Since the house bill is so new, it may take time to get an answer. But Burton said he is anxious to get a decision on the matter. “I just want to set my ballots,” he said. Burton said the 515 invalid signatures on the petitions were a combination of duplicate signatures, illegible signatures, incomplete addresses, printed signatures, and signatures from people outside the city. He said board of election employees make several searches before rejecting signatures as invalid. But since the petitions had one more than the required number, the process moves onto the next issues. City Attorney Mike Marsh said it will be up to the county prosecutor’s office – not the city – to rule whether or not the petition was filed on time, and if the language of the charter amendment meets standards. “We were never consulted on any part of this,” Marsh said about the petitions. “Whatever the county prosecutor says, I will be completely in support of.” The language of the proposed charter amendment is difficult to wade through, so the organization that filed the petition addressed each point in simpler terms. The petition calls for: Right to a healthy environment and livable…


BG faces full slate of council candidates, school issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green voters will have a lot to choose from on their general election ballots in November. Wednesday was the filing deadline for candidates and issues appearing on the ballot. The City Council at-large race has six candidates running to fill two open seats. There will be more variety than usual, with candidates representing Democrats, Republicans, the Green Party and an Independent. Voters will be asked to elect two of the following at-large candidates: Holly Cipriani, Democrat, 336 W. Evers Ave. Nathan Eberly, Independent, 907 Sand Ridge Road. BeverlyAnn Elwazani, Green Party, 1210 Bourgogne Ave. Carolyn S. Kawecka, Green Party, 517 S. Main St. Gregory W. Robinette, Republican, 1501 Cardinal Road. Sandy Rowland, Democrat, 200 Larchwood Drive. Voter will also get to choose between candidates in three of the four ward races. The First Ward candidates are: Daniel J. Gordon, Democrat, 215 E. Poe Road, Apt. 64. Hunter D. Sluss, Republican, 433 Thurstin Ave., Apt. 11. Second Ward candidates are: Kent Ramsey, Republican, 710 Seventh St., Apt. 3. John Zanfardino, Democrat, 244 S. Summit St. Fourth Ward candidates are: William J. Herald, Republican, 1030 Conneaut Ave. Scott W. Seeliger, Democrat, 208 Syracuse Drive. Running uncontested for the Third Ward council seat is Democrat Mike Aspacher. Bowling Green voters will also be casting ballots for board of education members. There will be no contest in the race, since just two candidates filed for the two open seats. William G. Clifford, 606 St. Anne Court. Norman J. Geer, 917 Clark St. The Bowling Green City School District will also have a tax issue on the ballot. Voters will decide a 6-mill bond issue, lasting 37 years, for construction, renovation and equipping of school facilities. Local voters will face one county-wide tax levy. Wood County Department of Job and Family Services will be asking for renewal of its 1.3-mill tax levy for 10 years. The millage will be used for children and adult protective services.


Pipeline petition may – or may not – be booted from ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There may be more than enough valid petition signatures to get a pipeline issue on Bowling Green’s ballot this November. But it’s uncertain if voters will have a chance to weigh in, since the petition may have been filed late. The petition asks that a charter amendment be adopted in the city to prioritize people over pipelines. All within a matter of hours today, officials believed the petition was possibly out, then possibly in – with no clear resolution. The only certainty is that Ohio’s rules on petitioning to put an issue on the ballot are far too complicated. Petition organizers Lisa Kochheiser and Brad Holmes, president of the Environmental Action Group at Bowling Green State University, reported that more than 1,200 signatures were collected, with at least 714 valid signatures required to get the charter amendment on the ballot. Wednesday at 4 p.m. was the filing deadline for issues and candidates appearing on the general election in November. But the pipeline issue did not appear on the board of elections list. Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said this morning that the petition was not filed on Wednesday, because the Ohio Revised Code requires that a charter amendment petition be held at the city for 10 days prior to it being submitted to the board of elections. The petition was turned in to the city on July 31 at 2 p.m. Since the city is required to hold onto it for public viewing for 10 days, that meant the petition could not be turned over to the Wood County Board of Elections until today at 2 p.m. – one day after the filing deadline set by the state. “We’re certainly not trying to withhold anything or play any games” Fawcett said. The city is just following the rules established in the Ohio Revised Code, he explained. “It’s not ‘up to 10 days,’ it’s after 10 days have passed,” that the petition can be filed at the board of elections. Initially, Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections, believed the petition was actually much further overdue. Once the petition gets to the board of elections, that entity has up to 10 days to verify the signatures and determine if there is an adequate number. The petition is then returned to the city for a final review and official…


Crime victims’ rights law in Ohio raises objections

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In November, Ohioans will vote on Marsy’s Law – a ballot measure intended to strengthen victims’ rights in the state. On the surface, the law seems to offer reasonable protections to crime victims. But on Tuesday, when the Wood County Commissioners were asked to join other officials across the state supporting Marsy’s Law, they heard strong reservations about the law from Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson. Marsy’s Law is named after a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in the 1980s. A week after her murder, Marsy’s family was confronted in public by her ex-boyfriend, who had been released on bail without the family being notified. Marsy’s brother has made it a mission to get the victims’ rights law passed in states. So far, California, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana have adopted the law, according to Emily Hunter, who is the Northwest Ohio field director for the effort to pass Marsy’s Law in Ohio. The law, Hunter told the Wood County Commissioners, guarantees that victims of crimes are treated as well as the defendants. “This is making them equal to the rights of the accused,” she said. “Right now, we are seeing many victims re-victimized in the system.” Hunter said she herself is a survivor of sexual assault. “I’ve made it my mission to fight.” Marsy’s Law has been endorsed by several elected officials in the state, including the state attorney general, state auditor, several county prosecutors, the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, mayors and county commissioners. On Tuesday, Hunter asked the Wood County commissioners to add their endorsement to the law. But Dobson, also at the table, cautioned the commissioners. He said in a “close and difficult” vote, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association decided to not support the law. It isn’t that he doesn’t support victims’ rights, Dobson said. “We feel that victims’ rights are very important,” he said. However, Marsy’s Law spells out the rights in the state constitution, “where they essentially can’t be changed.” Marsy’s Law for Ohio grants the following rights: The right to be treated with respect, fairness and dignity throughout the criminal justice process. The right to information about the rights and services available to crime victims. The right to notification in a timely manner of major proceedings and developments in the case. The right to be present at court…


Levy renewal to protect against child, elder abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the numbers of child and elder abuse grow in Wood County, so does the need for county residents to support the levy renewal that provides funding to protect those vulnerable populations. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners signed a resolution putting the 1.3-mill child and adult protective services levy renewal on the November ballot. The millage, to be collected for 10 years, will raise an estimated $3.7 million annually. The levy renewal effort comes at a time when the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services is seeing record numbers of child abuse investigations. It’s expected the county will investigate at least as many cases as last year – when the numbers jumped 25 percent to 894. “We anticipate having about as many as 2016, which set the all time record. Maybe a little higher,” said Dave Wigent, director of the county Job and Family Services. In addition to the increasing number, the county is also seeing an increase in the severity of the abuse cases – requiring that more children be placed in foster care. The overall increased cost of Children’s Services last year was about $500,000, Wigent said. So losing the levy funds that the county has relied on since 1987 would cripple the ability to provide child and adult protective services, he added. “It would be catastrophic for our child welfare and adult protective services,” Wigent said. The levy revenue makes up 90 percent of the adult protective services budget, he said. And loss of the levy would mean reductions in Children’s Services staff. “That would be at a time we are seeing record cases,” he said. Wigent stressed that the levy is not new money being requested of taxpayers. “It’s not a new tax,” he said. He also reminded that over the 30 years of the levy, there have been six times when the county has decided to not collect the full amount since it has not been needed. “We only take the money we need,” Wigent said. Wood County Job and Family Services may be the only department in the state to do that, he added. During the last 10-year period, there have been two years when the levy millage was not collected at all, and two other years when just half of the millage was collected. Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said earlier this…


Local election official favors limited voter info sharing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio is one of the 44 states refusing to give President Donald Trump’s elections commission all the voter information requested. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has said he will provide the newly created Elections Integrity Commission with information that is already made public to campaigns and political parties. But Husted is drawing the line at Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. The information on Wood County voters is already at the fingertips of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, according to Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. “Our voter information already is linked with the state data bases,” Burton said on Friday. Though not privy to all the details, Burton said Ohio is handing over only public information. “It sounds like everything he is supplying is public record that could be accessed by anyone else,” Burton said of Husted. The Elections Integrity Commission requested all 50 states to submit full voter information, including registrants’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, the last four digits of their social security numbers, a list of the elections they voted in since 2006, information on any felony convictions, information on whether they were registered to vote in other states, their military status, and whether they lived overseas. Trump set up the commission to investigate undocumented widespread voter fraud in national elections. He has claimed 3 million votes were illegally cast in the presidential election last year, robbing him of the popular vote. Husted said earlier this year that voter fraud is not widespread in Ohio and the presidential commission’s inquiry was not necessary. Burton shares that opinion, and believes that states should manage elections and counties should maintain the voter rolls. “I fall into the camp that voting and elections fall under the state’s purview,” Burton said. “I’m comfortable with how Ohio and Wood County have gone about the process.” The county board of election’s ultimate responsibility is to make sure that everyone legally able to, who wants to vote, can do so. The board reaches out to try to take voters off the rolls if they have registered at new addresses, or if they can find death records. But Burton has no concerns about widespread voter fraud. “I feel all our processes are as solid as they have ever been,” he said. “We have prided…


Push for amendment urges change in the way Congressional districts are drawn

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In Ohio winning a seat in the U.S. Congress is pretty much a guarantee of lifetime employment thanks to way Congressional districts are drawn. In the last election, the closest race had the victorious candidate winning by a margin of 36 percentage points. Those wide margins were true whether the candidate was Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur in the 9th District sweeping to victory with 69 percent of the vote over Republican Donald Philip Larson, or Republican incumbent Bob Latta trouncing Democratic challenger James Neu Jr. with 70 percent of the vote. The problem now, said Katelyn Elliott, a volunteer with an effort to change the way the state’s districts are drawn, is that an incumbent in a safe district has no incentive to listen to or take into consideration the views of voters from the other party. Those districts are the result of gerrymandering mapping district boundaries that assure large majorities for one party. For the most part that favors the Republicans who hold 12 of the state’s 16 seats in Congress, despite the state being considered a swing state. That’s probably why the state Democratic Party is supporting with the petition drive by the non-partisan Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change the way Congressional Districts are determined. But changing the way districts are drawn has also gained bipartisan support including from Republican Gov. John Kasich. The amendment has qualified for the ballot, Elliott said. She spoke Thursday at an event to recruit and train people who will circulate petitions. They’ll need to secure 305,000 statewide. That includes signatures from 44 counties. For a county to count, there must be signatures equal to 5 percent of the vote in that county from the last gubernatorial election, she said. All those signatures have to be filed by July 5 if the measure is going to appear on this November’s ballot. But if it doesn’t, Elliott said, signatures collected now will still be valid, as long as the signee hasn’t moved, to qualify for the November, 2018 ballot. Currently the districts are drawn by the state legislature, or rather the majority party members of the state legislature behind closed doors. Voters in 2015 approved, overwhelmingly with 71 percent of the vote, a change in how state legislative districts are drawn. The same body set up under that…