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Board of Election Hustles to get Ballots Done after Redistricting

Portage director says getting ballots ready for overseas mailing deadline was 'challenging.'

Although all will be ready when overseas voting starts on Saturday, elections board workers – including those in Portage County – have had to scramble a bit in the last week or so.

That's because a controversial U.S. congressional redistricting plan wasn't finalized until early January.

It all began with the 2010 U.S. Census. Population loss resulted in Ohio losing two Congressional seats, from 18 to 16. Plans began for redrawing Congressional districts in time for the March 6, 2012 primary.

Under threat of a referendum, the state Legislature created a bill that allowed for two primaries; one in March for state representatives and one in June for U.S. Congress and the president.

On Dec. 14, Ohio lawmakers brokered a deal to accept a revised congressional map and a March 6 primary. The costly second primary in June was eliminated.

The Ohio House and Senate redistricting maps were finished when, on  Jan. 4, Democrats filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court over the new Statehouse legislative districts, claiming it heavily favored Republican candidates.

Election board workers across the state then had barely a month to prepare ballots for the March primary. Ballots needed to be ready for Jan. 21, the day when the law requires overseas ballots to be mailed out.

That sent county elections board workers across the state hustling.

Linda Marcial, director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said the past month or so has been “a blur.”

“At the same time this was all happening, we were trying to finalize November elections. We started programming (for the March primary) on Jan. 3, but we would have started earlier had we known sooner. You always get to goal – you just do what you have to do,” Marcial said.

She can recall past elections where problems had employees scrambling on even-tighter deadlines, “but this one is probably up there with the more challenging ones.”

Marcial said the Portage County board was fortunate that only “a dozen or so” overseas ballots had been requested for the March primary. “Sometimes it’s horrendously bigger. There are times we have 200 or 300 to send out,” she explained.

The Congressional redistricting did not result in any precinct boundary shifts in Portage County.

“We pretty much stayed the same. The changes we made were more specific to fine-tuning some things. Kent, as you are probably aware, changed a couple of their wards. That caused us to look at the voter registration counts and then do a little bit of adjustment, but nothing of any major significance,” Marcial explained.

While elimination of the June primary will save the state about $15 million in election costs, some cities, such as Avon Lake, were blindsided by its sudden demise.

Avon Lake was anticipating placing a levy to fund paramedic service on the June ballot, but  The city did not have enough time to prepare millage to place the issue on the March primary.

Kasha Legeza contributed to this story.

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