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Flap in Mahoning County must be resolved quickly



Published: Fri, September 8, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



With the November general election less than two months away, recent stories in The Vindicator spotlighting an ongoing battle involving some government officials lead us to conclude that Mahoning County will not have a trouble-free election. We certainly hope we're wrong.

The games being played in county government make a mockery of responsible, adult governance.

At issue, as it has been for the past several months, is the county board of elections' inability to get going with full preparation for the very crucial general election.

We say very crucial because topping the ballot will be the important race for governor and the key contest for a U.S. Senate seat.

The ballot will also feature other statewide and local races and issues.

In other words, boards of elections around the state had better be prepared for a large turnout and had better ensure that the election day problems of 2004 aren't repeated.

The only way to guarantee a trouble-free day at the polls is to have every elections board 100 percent ready.

We have serious misgivings about Mahoning County. As the news stories have noted, the board of elections is unable to get information from the vendor of the electronic voting machines because a $450,000 bill has not been paid.

Election Systems & amp; Software of Omaha, Neb., is owed the money for the machines purchased in September 2004 and for maintenance agreements.

Ironically, the money is in the board of elections' operating account, but the county commissioners must approve the issuance of the check. Two commissioners, Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt, are refusing to do so because of what they contend is county Auditor Michael Sciortino's intransigence on an unrelated matter.

Sciortino is the former director of the elections board and was involved in the purchase of the voting equipment.

Oakhill Renaissance Place

But, as auditor, he is now embroiled in a row with Traficanti, Ludt and county Administrator George Tablack over the purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former South Side Medical Center complex.

Sciortino, along with commissioner John McNally IV and Treasurer John Reardon, have objected to the purchase. The county auditor has refused to issue a check for $75,000 to complete the purchase agreement.

In return, commissioners have refused to approve the payment of the $450,000 to ES & amp;S.

The ramifications of this impasse are already being felt. The vendor of the voting machines did not submit a bid to provide ballots for the November election. Two other companies did bid. However, the board of elections has misgivings about one because of its performance in the May primary; the other is new to the board.

Then there is the issue of hardware. New batteries that power the voting machines need to be installed, which is what ES & amp;S would normally do.

The November election in Mahoning County is too important to be undermined by the childish games of elected officials.

ES & amp;S' bill should be paid now; the check for Renaissance Place should be issued now; and the people running county government should grow up now.




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