Yemma balks at high-tech voting plan

On the side

Self-praise: In what looks like an effort to show Daniel R. Yemma has done a good job as acting Mahoning County treasurer the past two-plus weeks, his office sent an email Wednesday touting his accomplishments and saying the office is “busier than ever.”

Yemma is seeking the treasurer appointment Monday by county Democratic precinct committee members.

I mentioned last week that Yemma’s biggest problem was recently being kicked off the party’s executive committee by Chairman David Betras for supporting a nonendorsed candidate in Struthers 1st Ward council primary against the party’s endorsed candidate.

Anthony Protopapa, the nonendorsed candidate, said while Yemma, a longtime friend, supported him he never publicly endorsed or campaigned for him. Also, a few precinct committee members contacted me to say the endorsement issue means nothing to them.

To some, the Mahoning County Democratic Party’s decision to go high-tech with Monday’s vote by precinct committee members means a new way to rig the ballot.

Others aren’t familiar and/or comfortable using the hand-held electronic units that will provide real-time voting.

Another concern is the units aren’t certified by the Ohio secretary of state’s office for use during party elections to fill vacant elected positions.

Primarily for the last two reasons, Daniel R. Yemma, acting county treasurer and one of the three applicants for the vacant treasurer appointment, said he filed a complaint with the secretary of state over the use of the machines.

The 283-member committee meets at 7 p.m. at the Maronite Center to choose a new county treasurer. Also, the 15 committee members from Struthers will fill a council-at-large vacancy at that meeting.

“I want to make sure it’s proper to use” the electronic devices, Yemma said. “We don’t want to [vote] twice. I’m not against the technology. In this case, why not have a paper ballot as well to double-check if this technology works? Another issue is there needs to be an audit trail and I don’t know if these machines provide that.”

When told of Yemma’s complaint by me, Democratic Chairman David Betras hit the roof.

“I consider it to be totally inappropriate and ridiculous for him not to call me when I asked all the candidates if there was a problem,” he said. “Once again, Dan Yemma is a cowboy doing it his way and not for the betterment of the party. I’m very upset. He’s trying to make press for himself because he feels like he’s going to lose this election.”

Betras said state law and an attorney general’s opinion permits the party to conduct a vote through any form it desires.

The idea behind the hand-held units was to make the election run smoother, Betras said. Rather than spend hours counting paper ballots Betras asked Turning Technologies to provide the electronic units that will provide real-time voting. The new method would still keep individual votes secret and accurate, and will significantly reduce the time it takes to count ballots, he said.

Wanting to ease concerns about the new system, Betras outlined a long list of precautions and security measures. That includes 16 members of the party’s election committee as well as candidates or their designated observers at the sign-in table to oversee the distribution of the voting pads by Kyle Doneyko, an event specialist for Turning Technologies.

Also, six people will “act as observers as to the electronic voting procedures,” Betras said.

Two hours before the meeting, a pre-meeting is to be held to explain, demonstrate and inspect the voting pads.

If the secretary of state decides the Democrats can’t use the pads, all of the extra planning and reassurances will be an exercise in futility, and make an angry Betras even angrier.

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