LIMA — Out of 88 counties, Van Wert County’s Board of Elections is the only board in Ohio that is considered non-compliant with an Ohio Secretary of State 34-point directive sent out in June to increase election security.
As a result, Van Wert’s board has been placed on administrative oversight by the state office. In a letter sent on Feb. 5 to Van Wert’s board of elections, the secretary of state’s office named three reasons for the action: failure to comply, failure to address security concerns despite the board experiencing “a security event” in February 2019, and failure to “accurately and honestly” report progress on the changes being made.
Board Director Linda Stutz said she had met with the secretary of state’s team via conference call this morning to go over what needs to be done to come into compliance.
Stutz pointed to a recent move made by the board of elections as a partial reason for the compliance failure. The board moved to a new location, 1362 E. Ervin Road, back in June, and Stutz said the property that they moved to didn’t have internet access until September.
According to Stutz, no lines had been run out to the building, and the board heard reassurances from telecommunication companies that there was work being done.
As the directive was released in June, the delay still doesn’t explain the board’s actions in the remaining four months the board had to come into compliance.
According to the Van Wert Auditor’s website, the building is currently owned by an Assemblies of God LLC, based out of Missouri. The building had originally housed a grocery store and subsequently, the Christian Life Center. Currently, the building leases space to the board, a salon and spa and Modern Cork and Rubber.
In the letter sent to the board, the secretary of state’s office will also be “reviewing the operations of the board and creating written politics and procedures to govern the board and ensure the proper administration of elections.”
The letter continues: “Both the board members and staff should approach these visits and creation of written policies as an opportunity to improve upon the board’s current practices and build a foundation of solid policies and procedures that enable the board to securely, accurately and correctly administer elections.”
Stutz said the board is close to reaching the directive’s compliance with just over 10% of the work still needing to be done, and plans are in place to ensure election security by the start of early voting, or Feb. 19.
“They plan on having them ready before early voting starts,” Stutz said. “That’s how close we are. We’re almost there. There’s just a few things that need to be finished up.”
Seven other counties in Ohio were found to be “good-faith partners” that need “minor additional action,” according to the secretary of state’s website. They are Hamilton, Ottawa, Warren, Carroll, Holmes, Trumbull and Clark counties.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s letter to the Van Wert Board of Elections can be found in full at limaohio.com.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.