Wood County Board of Elections

Early voting numbers higher than last mid-term election

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A steady stream of local citizens have been making their way to the Wood County Board of Elections daily for early voting. As of Thursday, 7,595 Wood County residents had requested ballots by mail, and another 1,482 had been to the office to cast their ballots. That’s not as many as the office saw during the presidential election in 2016, but it is more than the last mid-term election four years ago, said Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. The total number of early voters in Wood County in 2014 was 7,990. In 2016 the number was 16,067. With 11 days to go, the early voting this year has already surpassed that of 2014.     Early voting is becoming the norm for many people. And the local board of elections predicts the in-office early voting numbers will continue upward at a faster rate as the election nears. “People are realizing the election is close,” Burton said. Not only do voters get a little nervous about mailing their ballots too close to election day, but also, there will be extended voting hours in the Board of Elections office. The extended voting hours are: Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Next week, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. No in-office voting is allowed on election day, Nov. 6. The fact that early voting numbers are higher than for the mid-term four years ago does not come as a surprise to the local board of elections. Burton tried to find the politically kind words, but ended up just saying that the state races in 2014 included a lot of incumbents and weren’t “overly competitive.” This year, the races are a little more heated. Plus the Secretary of State’s Office mailed out early voting reminders to all voters. The board of elections office is concerned about another mailer sent out by the state Republican party which stated that voters can turn in their absentee ballots at the polls. That is not true, Burton said. The ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 5 or turned into the board of elections office by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Any voter taking the absentee ballot to…


Group opposed to school levy turns in campaign finances

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The citizens group opposed to the Bowling Green City Schools levy in May has filed its campaign finance report with the Wood County Board of Elections. The filing deadline for campaign finance information from the May primary election was Friday at 4 p.m. The reports list those who contributed to election efforts, and how that money was spent. The group supporting the school levy made the deadline, but group opposed to the levy did not. However, when the board of elections arrived to work this morning, the report had been emailed in. The group opposed the levy – Wood County Citizens Against Higher Property Tax, with Grant Chamberlain as treasurer – reported receiving $7,267.62 since the first filing.  Following are the contributions listed to the anti-levy campaign: Irene Hinesman, $50 Douglas Seiple, $1,000 SLD Rentals, $300 David Apple, $1,000 Dudley Dauterman, $1,000 Gregory W. Bils, $400 Dan Hoffmann, $100 Robert Strow, $100 Sonja Chamberlain, $250 Thomas Carpenter, $250 Harold Moore, $500 Tad Yarger, $100 John H. Herringshaw, $200 Fine Vines LLC, $1,500 Gary Herringshaw, $200 Stephen C. Bateson, $200 Eric T. Lause, $50 Grant Chamberlain, $67.62 The group in favor of the school levy – Citizens in Support of Our Schools, with Andy Newlove as treasurer – reported receiving $3,600 in contributions since the April filing.  Following is a list of the donations to the pro-levy campaign: Becca Ferguson, $100 David Codding, $2,500 Control Systems of Ohio, $1,000 According to the Ohio Campaign Finance Handbook, if a required report is filed late, then the county board of elections or the secretary of state must refer the PAC to the Ohio Elections Commission. The commission determines if a fine should be imposed. Both pro and anti school levy groups filed the initial required campaign finance reports at the end of April. Those reports showed the contributions and expenditures through the period up to 20 days before the election. The post election reports due last Friday showed the money taken in and spent following the first report filed in April. In the initial reports, the anti-levy group had raised $10,866 from nine donors. The pro-levy group had raised $14,175 from 32 donors. Campaign finance law requires any Political Action Committee to report its finances. The reports must include where the money comes from – both in financial contributions and in-kind donations which are products…


Group against BG school levy fails to file finance report

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The citizens group opposed to the Bowling Green City Schools levy in May has failed to file its campaign finance report with the Wood County Board of Elections. Friday at 4 p.m. was the statewide deadline for political action committees to file reports listing those who contributed to election efforts, and how that money was spent. The group that supported the school levy – Citizens in Support of Our Schools, with Andy Newlove as treasurer – filed its report on Friday morning. The group against the levy – Wood County Citizens Against Higher Property Tax, with Grant Chamberlain as treasurer – did not submit its report by the deadline. It is unusual for a PAC to not comply with the Ohio Revised Code requirement, said Carol DeJong, director at the Wood County Board of Elections. “I have not had this experience with a PAC that didn’t file,” especially on such a high-profile election issue, DeJong said on Friday after the deadline passed. The penalty for not filing can be up to $100 a day, she added. According to the Ohio Campaign Finance Handbook, if a required report is filed late, then the county board of elections or the secretary of state must refer the PAC to the Ohio Elections Commission. The commission determines if a fine should be imposed. Both pro and anti school levy groups filed the initial required campaign finance reports at the end of April. Those reports showed the contributions and expenditures through the period up to 20 days before the election. The post election reports due Friday are to show the money taken in and spent following the first report filed in April. In their initial reports, the anti-levy group had raised $10,866 from nine donors. The pro-levy group had raised $14,175 from 32 donors. In the campaign finance report filed Friday by the Citizens in Support of Our Schools, three contributions were recorded: Becca Ferguson, $100; David Codding, $2,500; and Control Systems of Ohio, $1,000. Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton explained in April that campaign finance law requires any Political Action Committee to report its finances. The reports must include where the money comes from – both in financial contributions and in-kind donations which are products or services that benefit the cause. The school levy was a highly controversial issue, and failed for the…


Voter purge instructions expected from the state

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The strict voter purging process used in Ohio was given the stamp of approval by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week. The Wood County Board of Elections – like the rest of the state – has been on hold since the legitimacy of the voter purging has been debated in the courts. But soon, people will again be dropped from the voter rolls if they don’t meet state requirements. The local board of elections will be charged with making the cuts. Carol DeJong, one of the directors at the Wood County Board of Elections, said her opinion on the court ruling was irrelevant. “We are Switzerland here at the board of elections,” she said on Wednesday. “We will of course have to wait till we get instructions from the state,” DeJong said. But since the process of reviewing voting rolls is customary in January and February, she didn’t expect any voters would be purged prior to the general election this fall. The National Voter Registration Act prohibits dropping voters too close to an election, she said. “I don’t expect that we will hear anything new until the beginning of 2019,” she said. The last time Wood County did any purging of voter names was in 2015. That year more than 3,400 registered voters in Wood County were purged from the voting rolls following a directive from the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. However, in 2016 a federal appeals court found that Ohio’s process for maintaining its voter rolls violated federal law. A judge ruled that Ohio voters who were improperly removed from registration lists could cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. But since those names had already been purged, the ruling meant if a person showed up at the polls and was not on the official list, they would be allowed to vote by a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot is a paper ballot that is held in a sealed envelope with the voter’s identification. If the identification information was verified by the elections board staff, the provisional ballot was counted. Wood County Board of Elections did not encounter any citizens purged from the list, who wished to vote, Director Terry Burton said. “Those people had been through an eight-year process,” of not voting and not responding to notices, he said. But those who send back the stamped envelope…


Opposing sides sink money into BG school levy issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With just a week to convince voters to cast their ballots for or against the Bowling Green City Schools levy, both sides are putting money into their messages. The anti-levy group – Wood County Citizens Against Higher Property Tax – has erected billboards on the outskirts of the city urging people to reject the levy to build a new consolidated elementary, plus renovate and add onto the high school. The group has purchased more than $4,000 in newspaper ads showing young students questioning the need for new schools. And they have sent out mailers accusing the school board of not telling the truth about the levy. The pro-levy group – called Citizens in Support of Our Schools – has spent the bulk of its contributions on mailers and postage. Yard signs are popping up on both sides of the issue. As of last week’s filing deadline for campaign finance reports for the May 8 election, the anti-levy group had raised $10,866 from nine donors. The pro-levy group had raised $14,175 from 32 donors. Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton said Monday that campaign finance law requires any Political Action Committee to report its finances. The reports must include where the money comes from – both in financial contributions and in-kind donations which are products or services that benefit the cause. An individual does not need to report money spent on his or her own, Burton said. “They retain their First Amendment rights of free speech.” However, that changes if individuals work together, he said. “If two or more people get together and coordinate in any way,” they must file a report on where the finances came from, and how they were spent, Burton said. Last Thursday was the deadline for the first round of finance reporting for the May 8 election. The pre-election report covers all the revenue and expenses up to 20 days prior to the election. The post-election report, which is due June 15, must cover all finances after the pre-election report. “Typically we don’t get a full picture till post election,” he said. Burton said the board of elections does not question the numbers submitted by local PACs. “We are required to take their campaign reports at face value – unless we have a reason to believe it’s not accurate,” he said. “In general, in Wood County,…


Issues and candidates face local voters in May election

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County voters will face some decisions come May 8. Today was the filing deadline at the Wood County Board of Elections for any issues or candidates to appear on the primary election ballot. Voters in Bowling Green will help decide the fate of a school bond issue, county park district levy, and a liquor option for a restaurant. One countywide issue will appear on the ballot: Wood County Park District is seeking a 1-mill renewal levy, lasting 10 years. The levy revenue will be used for operating, improving, conserving and protecting the district’s existing parks. The millage is the same as when last passed 10 years ago for the county parks. For the last decade, the levy has generated about $2.8 million a year. That amount is expected to grow to $3 million a year because of new construction in the county. Two school districts in the county will be going before voters: Bowling Green City School District is seeking approval for a bond issue, of 5.7 mills for 37 years, to raise $71,990,000 for construction of school facilities. The funding would pay for the construction of one consolidated elementary school, plus renovations and an addition to the existing high school building. Eastwood Local School District has filed for a replacement tax levy, of 2 mills for five years, for general permanent improvements. One city issue was filed in Wood County: Perrysburg is asking for renewal of a tax levy for 0.8 mills, for five years, for public transportation services. Two other issues were filed with the board of elections: Sunset Bistro, a restaurant at 1220 W. Wooster St., Suite A, Bowling Green, is seeking a local liquor option that would allow Sunday sales. South East Ambulance District has filed for an additional tax levy of 6.5 mills, for five years, for providing funds for ambulance service and emergency medical services. Wednesday was also the deadline for a few candidates appearing on the May ballot, including state representative, county commissioner, county auditor and a common pleas judgeship. The three candidates filing for the state representative seat for the Third Ohio House District are: John E. Clemons, Northwood, Republican. Theresa A. Gavarone, Bowling Green, Republican. Daniel J. Gordon, Bowling Green, Democrat. Two candidates filing for the Wood County Auditor position are: Matthew Oestreich, Wayne, Republican. Buddy Ritson, Walbridge, Democrat. The one candidate…


Voter purge policy on hold while high court deliberates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The purging of any names on Wood County voting rolls has been suspended as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the legitimacy of the Ohio policy. The Supreme Court last week heard arguments on the appeal of a lower court ruling that found the state policy violated a federal law aimed to make it easier for U.S. citizens to register to vote. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act bars states from striking registered voters “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Ohio is one of seven states, along with Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, that erase infrequent voters from registration lists. Those opposing the purging called Ohio’s policy the most aggressive. Registered voters in Ohio who do not vote for four years are sent registration confirmation notices. If they do not respond and do not vote over the subsequent four years, their names are purged from the voting rolls. The Supreme Court’s ruling, expected by the end of June, could affect the ability to vote for thousands of people ahead of November’s congressional elections. The arguments in front of the Supreme Court focused on whether or not a state could send a registration confirmation notice based merely on a person’s failure to vote, which the plaintiffs argued is barred by federal law. Meanwhile, the Wood County Board of Elections is in limbo about updating voter rolls. “We didn’t do one last year because of the litigation,” said Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. “We’re going to hold status quo until we’re given instructions. Whatever the new construction is, we’ll comply.” In 2015, more than 3,400 registered voters in Wood County were purged from the voting rolls – at the directive from the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. The state’s directive ordered county boards of election to wipe voters from the rolls if they had shown “no voter initiated activity” since the last two federal elections. That “activity” included voting, signing petitions or filing for a change of address. The process required the board of elections office to send out postcards to registered voters who had not voted in the last two federal elections. That postcard was basically asking the citizen, “Are you still there?” Burton said. If the citizen getting the postcard did not respond, their status went “inactive,” however, they could still vote,…


Board of Elections rules pipeline charter amendment can be on ballot – appeal already filed with Ohio Supreme Court

The anti-pipeline petition for a Bowling Green charter amendment has won a battle to get on the ballot this November. But the opposition has already filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court. The Wood County Board of Elections reported today that it has ruled in favor of the petitioners asking for Bowling Green voters to be able to cast ballots on a charter amendment against pipelines. A hearing was held last week after a city resident, David W. Espen, who is a member of the plumber-pipefitters union, protested the petition. Espen, who was represented by Donald McTigue, of Columbus, said the petitions submitted did not have enough valid signatures, specifically noting the signatures of five BGSU students who used their residence hall addresses rather than their street addresses. The Board of Elections determined the five signatures meet the street address requirement and are valid. Espen’s protest also questioned the constitutionality of the charter amendment, saying it required the city to give citizens authority that the city does not possess. The Board of Elections also concluded the protester had not presented sufficient evidence that the issue should not appear on the ballot. “This is good news,” said Lisa Kochheiser, one of the citizens pushing for the charter amendment. “Now we just have to wait and see if the protester will take it to the Ohio Supreme Court.” That appeal will have to be submitted quickly, since the charter amendment is scheduled to appear on the November ballot in Bowling Green. “There’s a time crunch here,” Kochheiser said. McTigue said late this afternoon that he had already filed an appeal today with Ohio Supreme Court. McTigue said he has respect for the Wood County Board of Elections, “but I think they are incorrect about the law.”


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…


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…