2010-05-26 / Front Page

Commissioners Upset Over Vote Count Problem

**Read Commissioners' Letter & Resolution by clicking on "More," then scrolling to bottom of article
by David Pugh
Buckeye Staff Writer

Fulton County commissioners say they are disappointed and frustrated by the treatment they received from Kathy A. Meyer, director of the Fulton County Board of Elections.

The commissioners posed their concern in a May 17 letter to Mark Hagans, chairman of the Board of Elections.

In response, Meyer said, “It is so sad that the commissioners feel they need to place blame. We are all human, and I feel that all of us made errors on this.”

The commissioners’ concern is with the electrical aggregation issue on the May 4 ballot.

If voters approve an aggregation agreement, political subdivisions are allowed to negotiate the rates for the generation portion of residential and small business electrical bills.

Four communities– Archbold Fayette, Swanton, and Wauseon– put the electrical aggregation issue before voters.

The commissioners placed the issue on the ballot for un- incorporated areas of the county. Only those in unincorporated areas were supposed to vote on it.

But Meyer said there were questions about the wording of the resolution approved by the commissioners. The Board of Elections, based on its interpretation of the resolution, put the aggregation question before all voters, including those in incorporated communities.

Later, after consulting the Ohio Secretary of State offi ce, precinct votes that were in incorporated communities were subtracted from the county total.

The move altered the vote totals, but did not change the outcome. The issue passed 1,492 to 1,345.

Media, Press Reports

The commissioners’ letter takes Meyer to task for telling “the media” that the commissioners were at fault for the mistake.

The letter said Meyers told the media it “was not in the resolution” which voters should vote on the question.

“The commissioners did not tell us. I know this sounds like I’m putting the blame on them, but we can only go by what’s in the resolution.”

In the letter, the commissioners also cite an article about the issue in the May 12 edition of the Archbold Buckeye. In the article, Meyer said she called Vond Hall, Fulton County administrator, with a question about the resolution. Meyer said Hall told her he “was not sure” about the issue.

The letter states on Feb. 18 Hall told Meyer to contact the Secretary of State.

Overall, the commissioners said they were “surprised that the director was unclear on how to proceed.”

The commissioners said the resolution clearly states who should vote on the ballot question.

The Resolution

However, the meaning of the resolution could be open to interpretation.

The unincorporated areas are referred to in the seventh paragraph, which states, “Whereas, the Board of County Commissioners of Fulton County seek to establish a governmental aggregation program with opt-out provisions pursuant to Section 4928.20 of the Ohio Revised Code for the residents, businesses, and other electric consumers in the unincorporated area of the county.”

Section 2 of the resolution states aggregation “must be approved by the electors of the county, pursuant to Section 3 of this resolution.”

Section 3 states the Board of Elections “is hereby directed to submit the following question to the electors of Fulton County (italics added) at the election on May 4, 2010.”

Section 3 then phrases the question, asking if the commissioners should be given the authority to aggregate “the retail electric customers located in the unincorporated area of the county…( italics added).”

So, while the resolution does make reference to the unincorporated area of the county, Section 3 specifically directs the Board of Elections to put the question “to the electors (voters) of Fulton County,” without any qualifier as to exactly who can cast ballots.

Stated another way, the first line of Section 3 could be construed as putting the question before all county voters.

Feelings

The commissioners state they rely on heads of county departments “to provide direction and correct information and we have at times seen neither from your director.

"The public deserves better than what it receives from director Meyer."

Hagans said Monday he would look at the letter. While it does not call for specific action on his part, Hagans said he would “communicate with the commissioners and find out their concerns.”

The board, Hagans said, strives to make sure Fulton County has fair elections.

The Fulton County Board of Elections meets at 9 am, Wednesday, June 9.

Editor's note: The commissioners' letter to the Fulton County Board of Elections and the resolution are posted at www.ArchboldBuckeye.com. Access is free. Click here to view (PDF format).

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