By Ed Runyan
The contentious nature of politics in Newton Falls in recent years has turned Election Day into a battleground, so the Trumbull County Board of Elections will take drastic measures to bring it under control.
The elections board took phone calls throughout the day Nov. 8 regarding the behavior of poll workers, candidates and their supporters, especially at the 2nd Ward polling place at the VFW hall on Arlington Boulevard.
“All of you seem to lose your common sense on Election Day,” Kelly Pallante, elections-board director, said to Lyle Waddell, Newton Falls mayor, who attended Thursday’s board of elections meeting and wrote a complaint letter.
Waddell said he and his supporters remained across the street from the polling place at the community center on Quarry Street, and he thought they had behaved.
But Pallante pointed out that Waddell was carrying a video camera with him Election Day and asked whether that wouldn’t be perceived as a form of intimidation.
Jodi Fiorenzo Dibble, deputy board of elections director, said the board received several complaints election day from the 2nd Ward polling place.
One complaint was that the presiding judge had placed a piece of paper on each voting machine indicating the names of the write-in candidates for 2nd-Ward councilman.
Because that violated election laws, Pallante had the poll worker remove them.
Later, the poll worker hand-wrote larger signs with the write-in candidates’ names on them.
Pallante told the poll worker that also wasn’t legal, so he took those, Fiorenzo-Dibble said.
Waddell’s letter alleges that a candidate went inside the 2nd Ward polling location election morning, even though she doesn’t vote at that location.
One of the poll workers also came out of the VFW to talk to the candidate at her car, Waddell alleged.
Both of those things violate election laws, Fiorenzo- Dibble said.
Because of the problems, the elections board approved a resolution Thursday that bans the four election workers who served the 2nd Ward polling place from serving as poll workers for “the next several elections.”
The board also resolved to bring 16 people from outside the village to serve as poll workers for future elections and to have a deputy sheriff in the village to monitor all four polling places throughout the day.
The cost of having a sheriff’s deputy work the election will be charged to the village, Pallante noted.
This is not the first time there have been problems with elections in Newton Falls, board members and staff said.
During the special election Nov. 4, 2010, the elections board hired a deputy to patrol each polling place and brought in poll workers from outside the village, Fiorenzo-Dibble said.
Those measures were taken because of Election Day problems that occurred in Newton Falls during the elections before that, Fiorenzo-Dibble said.
With a deputy and outside poll workers, however, the Nov. 4 election went smoothly, Fiorenzo Dibble said.
Waddell said the political fighting in Newton Falls makes the village look like a “Third-World or Fourth-World country. It’s disgusting.”
The elections board certified all of the candidates for the March 6 ballot except Green Party Central Committee candidate Elaine Mastromatteo of Bristolville.
Pallante said the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office advised her that Mastromatteo’s petition was invalid because she used a petition form provided by the Green Party that required no signatures. She should have used a form that did require signatures, Pallante said.