Compromise found on precinct reduction

WARREN – Elections board members in Trumbull County have found common ground on a plan to consolidate some voting precincts, but by just how many won’t be known for several months.

The compromise the board agreed to Monday puts into place a set of criteria the office will use to pare down precincts, and the final plan won’t be ready to be implemented until January 2015.

The agreement also keeps Secretary of State Jon Husted at bay.

Husted held the tie-breaking vote on an earlier proposal that would have eliminated more than one-quarter of the precincts, but at the request of the board’s two Democrats, Husted last week agreed to give the board two weeks to resolve the issue.

”All we needed to do was sit around a table, deliberate, come up with an acceptable middle ground,” said board chairman Democrat Mark Alberini, who called the compromise a ”win-win.”

The proposal sets parameters around Republican board member Ron Knight’s earlier plan to reduce the number of precincts to 152. The change calls for the board to examine the county’s 208 precincts and consider consolidation only in instances where the new, proposed precincts do not exceed 1,100 registered voters and splitting the precinct is avoided.

Ohio law allows for a maximum 1,400 registered voters per precinct.

In addition, there must be adequate facilities in the new precinct to house the polling locations.

Work for the plan must be done by January 2014 and it won’t be implemented until January 2015, a consideration that saves from elimination the positions of several existing precinct committee members, especially in the Democrat party, which has all but seven seats filled.

The next election for central committee members is May 2014, so their positions would be safe for the next five years.

”It’s a good decision,” Knight said. ”For the secretary of state to break the tie would have been somewhat of a gamble. This in the long run will work out for everyone.”

Knight introduced his original proposal in an attempt to cut costs and make precincts more equal in size, but it was too much for Democrats. They argued it had the potential to lead to longer voting lines and increased risk of mistakes at the polls. Also, the elimination of so many precinct committee people would hurt the grassroots work of the party, they said.

rselak@tribtoday.com