MAHONING ELECTIONS BOARD Request to throw out challenges is rejected



A hearing on the validity of the registered voters is set for Thursday.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Board of Elections refused a request today from an attorney representing the Kerry-Edwards campaign to throw out challenges made by a Republican regarding the validity of 115 newly registered voters.
A hearing set for 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the elections board will still be held. But Mahoning election officials say in all likelihood the board will not disqualify any of the 115 registrants in question unless they find illegalities with registration cards.
If the board opts not to disqualify registrants, election officials will leave that decision to poll workers Election Day. Poll workers would ask the voters in question if they live in the precinct, and ask them to sign a document attesting to that.
If there is still a question about their eligibility by poll workers, the voters in question would be permitted to use a paper provisional ballot, and election board officials would determine if their vote counts, said Michael Sciortino, Mahoning elections director.
What happened
The Ohio Republican Party had residents in 65 of Ohio's 88 counties file challenges to about 35,000 registrants in the state, primarily for undeliverable mail. After a person registers to vote, county boards of elections send them notifications in the mail.
Most of the challenges filed statewide -- including those filed in Mahoning County by Matthew Ditchey of Youngstown -- were because those notifications were returned to election boards as undeliverable.
Scott Cochran, one of three attorneys representing the Kerry-Edwards and the Ohio Democratic Coordinated campaigns, told the elections board today that most of the registrants in question don't know there are problems with their eligibility. Also, a letter won't help them because it will probably be undeliverable, just like their notification cards, he said.
This is the first time a political party filed challenges against new registrants in Mahoning County, officials say.
Letter to board
In a Monday letter to the elections board, Cochran wrote that the mass challenges should be dismissed because state law requires reasons for the challenge. Cochran wrote that Ditchey didn't articulate the reasons for the challenges and made a "blanket recitation of a basis for ineligibility -- precinct residency."
He also wrote that state election law does not permit a single piece of undeliverable mail addressed to a voter by itself as grounds for canceling registration.
Trumbull County received 449 challenges, and Columbiana County received 49 challenges.
The Mahoning election board today began mailing yellow postcards to the 195,092 registered voters in the county with their precinct number and location, as well as the times polls are open and the election board's telephone number.
Also, Walter Duzzny, the county's emergency management agency director, said the county is prepared to keep the voting process going even if there is an emergency or a power outage at precinct locations. The county has generators, and alternative precinct locations, he said.
skolnick@vindy.com

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