State removes Miami County from election oversight

The Miami County Board of Elections was removed Tuesday from state administrative oversight and praised for efforts made after the discovery that 6,200 ballots were uncounted the night of the November 2018 general election. Officials said the ballots did not affect the outcome of any election. FILE
The Miami County Board of Elections was removed Tuesday from state administrative oversight and praised for efforts made after the discovery that 6,200 ballots were uncounted the night of the November 2018 general election. Officials said the ballots did not affect the outcome of any election. FILE

Ohio’s top elections official Tuesday removed the Miami County Board of Elections from administrative oversight imposed after county officials failed to count more than 6,000 votes in the November 2018 election.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose notified Miami County officials that he removed the administrative oversight via a letter that said local officials exceeded his expectations.

“When we met with the board on February 12, 2019, I expressed my optimism that the Miami County Board of Elections would enthusiastically take on this challenge and regain the voters’ trust,” LaRose’s letter said. “It is my belief that the Board has surpassed expectations and I am thrilled to make this decision today.”

EARLIER: Election board fires director after 6,200 ballots weren’t counted

An investigation into the Nov. 6, 2018, election revealed 6,288 votes went uncounted. The problem occurred when voting machines were not shut down properly because of a lack of training and human error, LaRose said.

The county board fired Elections Director Beverly Kendall and said the votes did not change outcomes of any election. The votes were cast by people who voted early on touch-screen machines in the elections office.

Miami County hired Laura Bruns as the new elections director, and LaRose said she works well with Deputy Director Ian Ridgeway.

Dave Fisher, chairman of the elections board, said, “This is a great day for the Miami County Board of Elections. Our staff and board have worked tirelessly to get to this point.”

Fisher thanked LaRose and his staff, plus Miami County Prosecutor Tony Kendell and his office for their efforts.

“I am proud of the teamwork of the board, staff, Secretary of State staff, and prosecutor’s office pulling on the same rope to regain the confidence of the voters,” Fisher said.

MORE: Fired Miami County elections director sues to get back pay, job

LaRose’s administrative oversight included requirements for the Miami County board to:

• Participate in weekly conference calls with the state elections division.

• Agree to provide status reports to the state on election preparation.

• Partner with the state to develop new policies and an updated Election Administration Plan.

• Administer two elections — the May 7, 2019 Primary-Special Election and the November 5, 2019 General Election — both of which were conducted successfully and accurately.

The board purchased new voting equipment and thoroughly trained precinct officials on it, LaRose said. It also conducted a post-election audit after the May primary.

FIRST REPORT: Investigation finds thousands of ballots went uncounted