Trumbull voting precincts to drop by 58 in two years
After 90 minutes of discussion, members of the Trumbull County Board of Elections reached a compromise that consolidates 210 Trumbull County voting precincts into 152.
By Ed Runyan
After 90 minutes of discussion, members of the Trumbull County Board of Elections reached a compromise Monday that consolidates 210 voting precincts into 152 on Jan. 1, 2015.
Republican Ron Knight proposed the reduction in voting precincts to equalize the number of voters in each precinct because there are seven precincts with more than 1,000 active voters but 25 precincts with fewer than 400.
Knight proposed last month that the consolidation take place in time for the May 7 primary, but he agreed Monday to hold off on the plan for close to two years to prevent about 50 Democratic Party precinct committee people from losing their positions as precinct committee members until 2017.
Precinct committee members are elected by their party to represent each voting precinct.
With fewer precincts, there will be fewer precinct committee members. The reduction affects the Democrats more than Republicans because the Democrats have 203 of the current 210 precinct positions filled, and the Republicans have only 132 of theirs filled.
Because the precinct reduction won’t happen until 2015, another election will take place in 2014 for precinct committee seats that will last four more years, officials said.
Though some of the precinct committee members won’t be responsible for a specific precinct, they still will have the right to vote on matters pertaining to the party for another term, said Mark Alberini, a Democratic member of the elections board.
Alberini argued against the precinct reduction at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting, which resulted in a 2-2 tie vote along party lines.
He said the reasons were loss of Democratic precinct members, who he called important “grass roots” members of the political process, and problems he expected at the polls because of fewer poll workers taking care of voters.
But after the Jan. 7 tie vote, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, told the elections board to compromise on the issue or he would cast the tie- breaking vote.
Knight said the current 210 precincts means there is an average of 719 voters per precinct in the county, which is “well below the state average of 868.”
If Trumbull County’s precincts were to drop to 152 today, it would have the 10th-highest average number of voters per precinct in the state, Knight said.
The changes won’t even change polling places for most voters, only the name of the precinct where some people cast votes, Knight said.
The change also will reduce the number of people casting votes at several precincts, such as two in Bazetta Township that have 1,409 and 1304 voters, and one in Howland with 1,386 voters.
At the urging of Alberini, Knight and fellow Republican Cathi Creed agreed to a limit on the size of any one voting precinct to no more than 1,100 registered voters.
The Republicans have gotten precincts reduced from 274 to 2010 in several steps since 2009. Each precinct reduction saves the county about $1,000 per year, officials have said.
The number of people voting at the polls on election day has declined from 96,000 in 2004 to 71,000 in 2012, largely because of the increase in early voting, Knight said.
Early voting takes place on the days leading up to the election and through the mail.
Kelly Pallante and Jodi Fiorenzo Dibble, the elections board director and deputy director, respectively, are required to carry out the precinct changes by Jan. 1, 2014, though they won’t take effect for one year after that.