Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted on Tuesday approved the appointment of former Dayton mayor Rhine McLin and current Centerville school board member John Doll as Democratic members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
McLin and Doll were nominated Monday night by the county Democratic Party to complete the terms of Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, who were recently ousted by Husted in a battle over weekend early voting.
Lieberman and Ritchie on Monday appealed their firings in U.S. District Court, asking the court to reinstate them. That case is pending, and both McLin and Doll said they would step aside if the pair win their court challenge.
In a letter to Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens, Husted, a Republican, pointed out that McLin’s campaign committee was previously found to have violated campaign finance law. He said that violation “would normally be sufficient cause to reject the party’s recommendation.” But he added that “given that we are just 56 days away from the Nov. 6, 2012 general election, I have instructed my staff to suspend the normal background check process.”
Each county board of elections is made up of two Republican members and two Democratic members, nominated by their respective parties and approved by the secretary of state, who also breaks ties in the case of a 2-2 vote.
Pending legal appeals, McLin takes over Lieberman’s term, which runs until 2016, while Doll takes over Ritchie’s term, which ends in 2014. Ohio law prohibits active candidates for office from serving on a board of elections. Doll said Monday that if he remains a BOE member in mid-2013, he would not file to run for re-election to Centerville’s school board. McLin said her stated plans to run for Dayton City Commission, which would require an early-2013 filing, are now in limbo.
Husted issues new rules for provisional ballots
On Tuesday, Husted also issued new rules for counting provisional ballots in response to a federal judge’s order seeking more access for the coming presidential election.
Husted directed poll workers to count all so-called “right church, wrong pew” ballots. Those are ballots cast by voters who show up at the correct polling place but are mistakenly directed to an area of the polling place where votes for other precincts are being cast.
U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley noted in an August order that this issue has become an increasing problem as the number of multi-precinct locations grows, particularly in urban areas. Such locations typically include several precincts grouped into a central polling location to save money. Poll workers gave 3,380 wrong precinct provisional ballots to voters last year, and the judge anticipated more of this type of ballot in the November election, pitting Democratic President Barack Obama against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The judge had set Tuesday as the deadline for Husted to lay out new rules ensuring more provisional ballots can be cast. His order came in a lawsuit filed by groups including a homeless voting rights advocacy group and several unions.
Husted plans to appeal a portion of the order calling for provisional ballots to be counted when the envelopes in which ballots are placed lack the proper signatures. Spokesman Matt McClellan said every other type of ballot at this stage of the process requires a signature so allowing certain provisional ballots to go without signatures would be inconsistent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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