Local boards of election stressed by lack of funding in state budget for August special election
Local boards of election in Ohio are stressed following the announcement of the Senate budget, which underfunds the special election that the lawmakers created and that the boards spoke out against. Some lawmakers argue this is being done purposely to suppress voters.
Counties are attempting to get ready for the Aug. 8 special election.
“If you want election integrity and you want solid elections that you can believe in – that costs money,” said Tony Perlatti, director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
Perlatti has requested $3 million to be able to put it on in Cuyahoga County. Typically, special elections cost the state $20 million.
But when the Senate announced its first draft budget, State. Sen. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) noticed a problem with it.
“What was supposed to be a $20 million election was only funded at $15 million,” Smith said. “I thought, well, this is just the next way they’re doing voter suppression.”
Underfunding the election could cause fewer ballots to be printed at local boards, fewer poll workers and fewer poll locations, the Democrat said.
“We need to make some decisions on what do we cut,” Perlatti said. “Voter education, making people aware of this election; the number of poll workers, so you have to wait in line longer to vote.”
When talking with some Republicans, they have expressed worry that Issue 1, which would make it harder to amend the Ohio constitution, will fail.
“They’re purposely underfunding an election that they’re nervous about the final result,” Smith argued.
OCJ/WEWS went right to Senate President Matt Huffman to figure out why the budget was $5 million short.
“When we asked how much would be needed, the Secretary of State’s Office estimated $10 to $12 million,” Huffman responded. “So we put $15 [million] in just in case.”
Perlatti doesn’t understand that, since this election will clearly cost more due to expected higher turnout. Luckily for him, Huffman seemed willing to negotiate.
“I have heard since then that they think $15 million is not enough,” the president said. “I think we’ll put in the extra dollars the local election officials want.”
Perlatti said this isn’t just a want — it is a need.
“It’s a statewide August election on an issue… born out of the legislature,” the elections official said. “I would hope that they would then take that responsible step and fund what they created.”
The budget will continue to be heard this week and into the next.
This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.