MAHONING COUNTY Lawyer drops challenge to voters' validity



The county elections board flagged about 2,000 questionable registrants.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Republican who had challenged the validity of 115 registered voters in Mahoning County withdrew his complaint.
It didn't matter because elections board members said they would have permitted the voters in question to cast ballots Tuesday.
Republican and Democratic attorneys met with elections board officials for about 45 minutes Thursday to discuss and argue the merits of the challenges made by Matthew Ditchey, a Youngstown lawyer and a Republican.
Ditchey challenged their legitimacy because notices sent to them in the mail by the elections board were returned as undeliverable.
Of the 115 voters in question, the elections board determined there is no doubt that 20 of them are properly registered, said Michael Sciortino, elections board director.
The remaining 95 are among 2,000 voters whose legitimacy is questioned by the elections board for a variety of reasons, including their residency, said Mark Munroe, board chairman.
What will happen
None of those 2,000 will be denied the right to cast ballots Election Day, Munroe said.
They will be asked by the presiding judge in their voting precinct if they live in the precinct, and to sign a document stating that, Munroe said.
If the presiding judge is satisfied those people are in the precinct, they will cast ballots on the electronic voting machines like others, he said.
If the presiding judge isn't satisfied, those people will still be able to cast ballots on the machines, but their vote will be marked as provisional, Munroe said.
Elections board employees will determine their eligibility after the election.
Munroe and Michael Morley, an elections board member, said there was no way they were going to disqualify registered voters because their notification was returned by the post office as undeliverable.
Republican effort
The challenge from Ditchey was part of a large-scale operation by the Ohio Republican Party to challenge about 35,000 registrants in 65 of Ohio's 88 counties.
A federal judge handed down a decision that threw out the Republican challenges in six Ohio counties, including Trumbull. Trumbull had 449 registrants challenged. An appeal to the judge's decision has been filed by Republicans.
Scott Cochran, a local attorney hired by the Kerry-Edwards and the Ohio Democratic Coordinated campaigns, said Republicans filed the challenges to suppress the vote in Democratic areas such as Youngstown, Cleveland, Akron and Canton.
Ditchey said it was done to protect the integrity of legitimate voters.
Three problems
Thomas McCabe, the board's deputy director, said a check of new registrants turned up three problems: Two of the registration forms look to be forgeries, and a 15-year-old registered to vote. Ditchey said only one of those three were among the 115 challenges he made.
Those three cases will be referred to the county prosecutor, Sciortino said. About 50 other questionable registration forms were given to the prosecutor recently, he said.
A hearing is set for today in Columbiana County on 49 registrants, whose validity was questioned by Republicans.
skolnick@vindy.com

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