The Summit County Board of Elections is struggling to downsize in the middle of an election year, hardly the time for rational compromise. The process of paring down should have started long ago, after the 2008 presidential election. The board did take some steps in 2009, but the move to cut costs faltered.
This week, the County Council approved a $4.7 million budget for the board for this year, less than it spent four years ago and way below the $9.3 million requested for this year. One of the steps the board will take will directly affect voters: the downsizing of precincts, from 475 to 269. Democrats resisted, but Republicans on the board were able to get their way when Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, broke a tie vote.
Another fight is over whether or where to have an outside location for in-person absentee voting. That’s still being negotiated. In the long-run, the board needs to consider investing in new technology, such as electronic poll books, and implementing more flexible personnel practices, including cross-training. But in the short run, the budget crunch appears likely to impact voters. Bear in mind, Republicans are well aware that restricting access to the polls will hurt Democrats in the fall more than the GOP.