The Mahoning County Board of Elections, which will reduce the number of voting precincts by at least 50 for the November election, will offer proposals to Youngstown officials on redistricting the city’s seven wards.
There is no cost to the city for proposed ward maps, and the board is following up on a request from Mayor John A. McNally for the information, Director Joyce Kale-Pesta said Friday.
The board plans to reduce its 273 voting precincts by at least 50, said Kale-Pesta and board Chairman Mark Munroe, who also is the county Republican Party chairman.
A staff proposal on the consolidation will be finished by June and in front of the board the following month, Kale-Pesta said.
Also, Kale-Pesta said she wants to meet with McNally and city council members before a final board vote to discuss Youngstown redistricting options.
Redistricting has been a source of contention among council members, and between some members and McNally.
McNally along with Councilmen Mike Ray, D-4th, and Paul Drennen, D-5th, support maps provided by the Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies provided about nine months ago. The work cost $3,854.
The other five council members want a second opinion and voted Wednesday to hire Triad Research Group of Westlake to develop redistricting plans at a price range of $7,500 to $10,000.
But McNally said his administration will not hire another company for work when the information provided by YSU is satisfactory.
“We’ll put a proposal together and present it to mayor and council with a good solution,” Kale-Pesta said.
“We’re trying to help them at no cost,” Munroe added.
Most of the precincts that will be reduced by the board of elections will come from Youngstown, Struthers and Campbell, she said.
Youngstown has 77 precincts with the biggest reductions in the city likely coming from the 2nd Ward on the East Side and the 3rd Ward on the North Side, each with 10 precincts, Kale-Pesta said.
“The population has dropped off there, so there are less voters,” she said.
Mahoning County has the lowest average number of voters per precinct among the state’s 13 most-populous counties, according to a survey done by Mahoning elections board officials. Each precinct reduced saves the county about $1,000 per election, Munroe said.
The board has control over the number of voting precincts in the city, but city council has control over redistricting its wards. Council is supposed to redistrict every decade under the city charter, but hasn’t done so in 30 years.
A concern expressed by board members is a precinct consolidation would be done in Youngstown and then the city would redistrict. That would require the board to change the voting precincts a second time, they said.
Meanwhile, the board of elections is looking to move its in-person early voting from its office in Oakhill Renaissance Place on the city’s South Side because of problems with inadequate parking there.
Board officials had preliminary discussions with the owners of the Boardman Plaza about space there for early voting. There would be an expense involved.
But David Betras, board vice chairman and county Democratic Party chairman, said it would be worth it.
“If we move to Boardman, you’ll increase [early] voting by 25 percent,” he said.
Kale-Pesta said she’ll discuss with county commissioners having the front parking lot at Oakhill dedicated to only early voters when that process starts.