By Ed Runyan
The Trumbull County Board of Elections wants its staff to look into ways to get poll workers to better comply with an election-night rule regarding Democrats and Republicans together turning in election results to the board offices.
Director Kelly Pallante reported Monday that in 41 out of 210 voting precincts, only one poll worker made the trip to the elections board Nov. 6.
Ohio Secretary of State rules require one poll worker from each party to make the trip from the polls to the elections board — one of them driving and the other riding along. The rule is a safeguard against manipulation of the election results by one party or the other.
“We’ve gone over it and over it,” Pallante said of the training sessions before every election. “Some of them don’t get along,” she added.
Jodi Fiorenzo Dibble, deputy director, said she’s heard a variety of excuses: One of the two doesn’t like that the other smokes cigarettes, or the driver has fears over liability in the event of an accident, or the passenger has concerns about the other person’s driving abilities.
Fiorenzo-Dibble said the rule has been in effect for about four years, and there are typically 40 to 50 cases of just one poll worker turning in the results in each recent election.
She said the votes cast on the computerized voting machines are “closed out” before leaving the polling location, and the voting machines and paper ballots have a tamper-resistant seal, so tampering is “unlikely,” she said.
Fiorenzo Dibble said she’s not aware that there’s ever been a suspicion of vote tampering as a result of only one poll worker dropping off the results.
Alexis Zoldan, deputy press secretary for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, said Husted’s office was made aware of the issue by a Trumbull County field representative Monday and is “taking it very seriously.”
Asked how common or serious it is, Zoldan said, “I’d be happy to dig deeper when we have more information.”
Each poll worker in the vehicle delivering the results is paid something extra to return the results — the driver gets paid mileage, the passenger gets an hour’s wages.
Ron Knight, one of the four elections board members, suggested sending a letter to presiding judges before the next election warning them that they will not get an appointment to be presiding judge again if they don’t comply with the rule.
Meanwhile, the elections board approved a new policy regarding the way workers will handle nominating petitions for elections candidates in the future.
Board member Mark Alberini said last month it was “unfortunate such a glaring error” on the petition of Mark Zuppo Sr. didn’t get noticed by an elections worker when Zuppo turned it in for the May 7 Democratic primary for Girard treasurer.
Zuppo failed to sign his name on one of his four petitions attesting that he had witnessed the signing of all of the names on the petition, which invalidated the signatures on the petition.
Zuppo was then ruled ineligible to run in the primary but said later he’ll run as an independent in November.
When candidates take out petitions to run for office, he or she receives an instruction form. When the petitions are returned, they are given a checklist of requirements, Pallante said.
In the past, elections workers were not required to check for errors when the petitions were turned in. Under the new policy, they must “look the petition over front/back for any glaring issues,” the policy says.
If there is an error, the worker must show the candidate the error and give the candidate new petitions to fill out or advise them to have the appropriate party correct the error where possible.