Akron Beacon Journal. March 7, 2021.

Editorial: A dead voter, errors require Summit County Board of Elections to clean up its mess

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Summit County is under the microscope.

Donald Trump and some of his supporters are known for the Big Lie — that the presidential election was stolen. Those of us who agree Trump lost the election also tend to agree that elections officials are doing their best at the local level. Widespread voter fraud is a myth.

But a “vote from the grave,” as happened last fall in Summit County, is unacceptable. And a board of elections investigation revealing that 700 deceased Summit County voters were still registered to vote is alarming.

We agree with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s move to reject the reappointment of Bryan Williams to the Summit board and place the board under administrative oversight.

Despite Williams’ lengthy service, or perhaps because of it, it’s time for change at the board. Williams was director of the Summit County Board of Elections from 2004 to 2010 and was serving as an appointed member last year, when some of the board’s worst blunders occurred.

The scrutiny doesn’t stop with Williams. LaRose’s office threatens to remove other board members, the director and deputy director if meaningful procedural changes aren’t made.

Besides the issue of deceased voters on the rolls, LaRose’s office alleges non-incarcerated felons who should have been allowed to vote were cut, traffic issues discouraged early voting and employees were not informed that they can blow the whistle on harassment or violations of Ohio’s voting laws.

The board must play by the rules to ensure election integrity. Voting rights must be protected for all. And taxpayer dollars must not be wasted. Yet the secretary of state’s office and an anonymous whistleblower are casting doubt on the board’s ability to meet these demands.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is looking into who may have cast a ballot in the name of a Sagamore Hills woman who died four months previously. The incident provoked a review showing shortcomings in how deceased voters are removed from rolls.

Lapses such as these can shake the public’s confidence in the American voting system.

Further, the secretary of state’s office says the board may have violated state law by canceling the registrations of convicted felons who are now eligible to vote. If true, this calls into question the competence and fairness of the board and its employees.

LaRose emphasizes that Democrats, too, are at fault. And in discussing Williams’ reappointment, LaRose cautions that no one who’s had a hand in board management “in recent years” is acceptable.

Williams likely was there during the years when “a pattern of political quid pro quo” took place as described in a whistleblower complaint sent to LaRose in December. The system of partisanship in county boards is meant to ensure that Republicans and Democrats are checking each other’s work; it should not be abused.

Claims that partisans are wasting taxpayer dollars by doing party work on the clock must be investigated further, with those responsible shown the door.

The office must ensure employees are trained about their whistleblower rights regarding voters and employees.

County Board of Elections Director Lance Reed, who took over in August, has found that the board lacked an approved process by which employees can report election law violations. Reed is no newcomer to politics, having previously worked at the board of elections for a few years and formerly serving as the county Republican Party’s executive director. But in this new role, Reed would benefit from the board’s oversight.

Summit County officials cannot shoulder all of the blame for possible voter suppression. Failures to manage traffic on Grant Street may rest with the local board, but it’s LaRose who wrongly decided counties could only have one drop box each. After judges ruled LaRose does have the authority to allow multiple drop boxes, it was too late for counties to change.

All counties in Ohio faced multiple challenges in 2020. Ultimately, it is up to local officials to work together and find the best solutions; some fared better than others. In Summit County, avoidable problems and long lines resulted.

There’s zero evidence any of these issues changed the outcome of any elections. But the best way to make sure these issues don’t grow into future election-altering problems is to take strong action now.

Summit County taxpayers should rest easier knowing that change will be coming as the board is forced to work under administrative oversight.

___

Marietta Times. March 5, 2021.

Editorial: Don’t forget rural areas of Ohio

While the Buckeye State works to attract new visitors (and perhaps permanent residents), it has a running start with its efforts to attract employers. According to corporate real estate and economic development magazine Site Selection, Ohio leads the country in new corporate facility projects per capita. Ohio is second on the list for total projects.

“Ohio continues to attract new corporate facilities and business to invest here,” Gov. Mike DeWine said. “In Ohio, we have a strong business community that will work alongside new companies who are looking to invest and utilize our skilled workforce.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted told the magazine the state is first for a reason.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, businesses knew they could count on Ohio as a great place to invest, now and for the future,” he said.

According to the magazine, 25 of the state’s micropolitan areas (one or more adjacent counties that contain an urban core with 10,000 to 50,000 people) were among the top 100 micropolitan areas in the nation. Something is going right for those parts of the state.

Now it is time for lawmakers and economic development officials to find a way to translate it to the large swaths of rural Ohio still struggling. Those areas are just bursting with potential to attract those hoping to escape the urban jungles of some other, more populated states. But rural communities need help. They need resources and ideas. They need someone to believe in them, too. Columbus has proof there is a formula for success in developing part of the Buckeye State. Now let’s make it work for ALL of Ohio.

___

Sandusky Register. March 3, 2021.

Editorial: The lies they tell

Our jaws dropped last year when a committee of the Ohio House listened to testimony from a business owner impacted by the pandemic shutdown orders who claimed the public health emergency was a hoax. The witness said — with a straight face — that coroners across the country and all over the world agreed they would mark every cause of death on every death certificate to be COVID-19 related.

It was a conspiracy to harm Donald Trump, the man said, and hospitals, health care facilities and others were all involved in it. We were shocked at the outrageousness of his statement, but nothing prepared us for what came next. There was no challenge at all from the Republican committee chair to the dangerously reckless claim, no correction to it, no concern for truth or accuracy. Lawmakers went along with the pandemic denier’s claim.

It was — and remains — an outrageously dangerous lie that comes from a place of ignorance advantaged by power and position. The Republican leaders controlling that hearing actually gaveled silent Democrats who challenged the witness’ statement, admonishing them to let the gentleman speak.

The chairman defended free speech, but only as far as it served his interests, his party, not at all concerned that it did not serve the public’s interest. This, we fear, is the behavior that defines the GOP House and Senate majorities. Their willingness to promote big lies and small lies without concern for the very real dangers it creates. It is frightening, indeed.

We look to Columbus hoping to be introduced to the adults who are in charge, and every week, it seems, we are disappointed with the lack of accountability, the lack of integrity, the lack of courage and the lack of conviction we see. This is, after all, much the same legislative body that last year was caught in a $61 million bribery scheme related to nuclear power in the state. These are the same lawmakers than dirtied that worthy legislative deed by their greed.

Just last week, YouTube pulled down a video of committee testimony in the Ohio House after a witness provided more inaccurate claims about the pandemic. The platform said the statehouse video violated its community standards against the spread of misinformation. We’re neither endorsing nor not endorsing whether a platform — any platform — should take that kind of step. That’s a topic for another day.

What we do know for sure, however, is that lawmakers need to be held to account for misinformation if they spread it, or condone it, and right now that’s not happening. They are purveyors of misinformation. If we see a leader inside the statehouse, we’ll be sure to let you know. But there’s none there now. Ohioans need to be very concerned about the functionality and the integrity of the state’s legislative branch. It’s broken.

___

Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. March 2, 2021.

Editorial: Ohio lawmakers should fix a bad law

Instead of protecting Lorain’s voters in 2019, Ohio’s “sore loser” law cost them options.

Never again should voters in the state have to experience what Lorain’s voters did, which is why the General Assembly must not delay any longer in fixing an obscure part of the law.

The law bars anyone who ran in a primary, whether he or she won or lost, from replacing someone else on the general election ballot.

The trouble with this prohibition was on full display in 2019, when then-Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer resigned to take a private sector job mere days after winning the Democratic primary for a third term.

Ambitious Democrats quickly announced they would seek to replace Ritenauer on the November ballot.

Among the contenders were City Council President Joel Arredondo, at-large Council members Mitch Fallis and Mary Springowski, city Auditor Karen Shawver, and then-Lorain school board member Tony Dimacchia, who had won enough primary votes to advance to the general election as a candidate for an at-large Council seat. Former state Rep. Dan Ramos, who hadn’t run in the primary, also entered the race.

Local Democrats soon discovered, however, that their options were limited when they considered whom they could put on the ballot to replace Ritenauer.

The result was the removal of Arredondo, Dichacchia, Fallis, Shawver and Springowski from consideration. Ramos remained a viable candidate, but he withdrew after being subjected to ridiculous accusations that he benefited from a conspiracy to make him mayor.

To buy themselves time, Democrats named then-Councilman and former Mayor Joe Koziura to serve out the remainder of Ritenauer’s term.

Springowski’s father, Jerry Donovan, toyed with the idea of running and then resigning if he won so Democrats could appoint yet another mayor. The most likely candidate would have been his daughter.

Donovan didn’t follow through, which left lawyer Jack Bradley as the only candidate standing when Democrats met to pick Ritenauer’s replacement on the ballot. Bradley went on to win in the fall and has been mayor ever since.

“Sore loser” laws are intended to prevent losing primary candidates from finding their way into the general election through some other means, such as by running as independent or write-in candidates. Unfortunately, as written, the law prevents all candidates who run in a primary from replacing a candidate who drops out of a race.

It had the effect of removing from consideration qualified candidates even if they had prevailed in their primaries.

State Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, introduced a bill to fix this during the last session of the General Assembly, but it died in committee.

Manning told us one of the objections he heard was that a candidate could use the revised law to play “games” by running in a high-profile race to gain name recognition and then changing races after losing.

That’s a possibility, we suppose, but an unlikely one, and certainly not something that should derail the legislation, which Manning has reintroduced this session.

It’s the right thing to do because the whole episode in Lorain revealed that the “sore loser” law can deprive voters of choices they should have.

Sooner or later, it’s bound to happen again, in Lorain or another community.

___

Youngstown Vindicator. March 5, 2021.

Editorial: Support fish fries, but be cautious

The Lenten season is upon us, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional fish fries are making a comeback.

Lent, a 40-day season of prayer and fasting, continues until April 3. This period of reflection and repentance is meant to help Christians prepare to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter.

One way many people observe Lent is by abstaining from eating meat, especially on Fridays — hence the popularity of fish fries.

Although dozens of these local events had to be canceled last year as the coronavirus spread across our region, many churches, fire departments and civic organizations are reviving them this year. Some locations are providing fish sandwiches, dinners and more menu items for carryout only, while others are inviting diners to stay on site — with social distancing provisions and other precautions in place.

Not only do these events provide faithful Christians and other community members with some delicious food options, they give the organizations hosting them the chance to earn some much-needed funding. Typically held on Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent and on Fridays throughout the season, these activities often bring in quite a bit of revenue, benefiting all sorts of causes.

We must not forget, though, that the virus that causes COVID-19 is still among us. It might be a simple thing to feel at ease with old friends and neighbors who are participating in these sales for a good cause, but we can never know when one of these individuals may have been exposed to the virus. This is especially true since many people can be asymptomatic carriers of the disease.

So, while we urge area residents to patronize these fundraisers and to enjoy the fare they provide, we also encourage patrons and event volunteers alike to be cautious. Don’t let down your guard. Maintain social distancing, wash your hands frequently and wear a mask when not eating or drinking. Continue to protect one another until the danger passes.

END