Public or private? Trumbull Democrat voting method remains murky

By Ed Runyan


Again at Wednesday’s Trumbull County Democratic Party Central Committee meeting regarding the appointment of Niles mayor to replace Thomas Scarnecchia, who retired 30 months into his four-year term, a question was raised about whether the process would provide anonymity to the voters.

And again the issue got murky, but the party’s new secretary, Karen Zehr, says no one apparently used the ballots to determine who voted for whom. Members of the Trumbull County Board of Elections counted the ballots and put the results on a separate tally sheet.

One of the 11 Niles precinct committee members who voted Wednesday, former Niles council member Bob Marino asked before the vote whether anyone would know how he voted.

Parliamentarian Jeff Goodman explained that under the Trumbull County Democratic Party’s constitution and bylaws, the paper ballots containing the votes can be destroyed immediately after the vote, but the tally sheets need to be retained for the entirety of office holder’s term.

Marino clarified Friday that he actually believes that there should be complete openness regarding the votes cast at such meetings. To prove it, he said he voted for Steve Mientkiewicz, who was selected mayor for the next 17 months by a vote of 6 votes to 5 over Niles police Capt. Jim Villecco.

Only Niles precinct committee members were eligible to vote.

“I feel the ballots should be made public and should be retained,” Marino said. He has no opinion on whether votes cast for party endorsements should be public or not, but when an elected central committee member votes to select a public official such as mayor, the public should know how they voted, he said.

Others in the county party have expressed the opposite view, saying they have concerns about retaliation if anyone were able to know how they voted.

Zehr said Friday she took the ballots home with her and retained them for a day or so, but they have since been destroyed because no one challenged the outcome of the voting.

Zehr said she didn’t look at the ballots, nor did anyone else. She said she and Kathy DiCristofaro, vice chairperson of the county Democratic party, agree that what they did with the ballots complies with the Ohio Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee.

Trumbull party chairman Dan Polivka referred questions about the voting method to Goodman, who said he is responsible for explaining the Trumbull party’s constitution and bylaws. But he said he defers to DiCristofaro as to what the Ohio Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee say about party balloting.

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