Voting is critical for our Democracy. I believe voting is our civic duty- allowing our voices to be heard. At two separate events this past Saturday, I registered new voters. It is important to me. Although I am a civic minded, involved person, I still have much to learn about how things really work in Putnam County. In early May of this year, I read an article in the Sentinel that the Board of Elections was closing our voting site at the Vaughnsville Community Center. The article cited the BOE has been working on the consolidation for 2 years. As I asked my friends and neighbors about this, no one knew anything of the change. Even my township trustees were unaware. So, I decided to follow up, gathering other resident’s opinions. I contacted to Secretary of State’s office asking for advice on how to file a complaint. I was told that getting the community involved was the best method. If there is enough public unrest the BOE could reinstate the locations. It is within their power to open and close polling stations. I requested time to ask questions at the BOE regular meeting in May. I was given 5 minutes to speak during their meeting in the kitchenette of the BOE office. I just asked what method was utilized to gain community input, why was Sugar Creek Township chosen and how much cost savings are we realizing? I was told that the Sentinel misspoke in the article. Yes, they had been working on this project for 2 years, but the community wasn’t heavily involved. I was advised that Vaughnsville had some handicap accessibility issues- however, those issues were corrected. The center is in compliance with the law and there are no issues of accessibility. And, I was given a figure of $60,000 of savings. How can that be? I clarified and the $60,000 in savings was for entire project of consolidationincluding other townships. So, as I left the meeting with this new information, I again began talking to my neighbors and began circulating a petition. I asked to be added to the agenda for the Putnam County Commissioners. I erroneously believed that they may have some leverage on the BOE. They did hear of my concerns and I did share the petition with them to demonstrate the public is upset. During that meeting I learned that a shortage of poll workers was another issue the BOE claimed as a reason to close the Vaughnsville site. I did call the BOE the next day and offered to be a poll worker, adding that others in my area are also willing to volunteer. Director Karen Lammers advised that she has enough poll workers and would put me on a sub list. Commissioner Mike Lammers was concerned about my complaint and attempted to address the issue with the BOE. The BOE was not moved by the County Commissioners to reverse their decision. A petition with 167 signatures was presented to the BOE at the August monthly meeting.

I again requested to speak and was given 5 minutes. I was not the only one at the meeting. Blanchard Township residents, the Lima News, Commissioner Mike Lammers, Township trustees and Sugar Creek Township residents. Board members commented that they have never had that many people attend any of the meetings. They moved the meeting from the small kitchenette to the main waiting room. I was a bit more prepared for this meeting as I had a prepared statement and provided the board with a written copy of the statement. Others requested time to speak and were denied. One board member did make a motion to allow others to speak during a specific section of the agenda. Others in attendance voiced their opposition to the closing of poll locations in Sugar Creek and Blanchard Townships. Blanchard residents also presented a petition with a little over 100 signatures. We have presented solid reasons the locations should be kept open. The closing of these facilities also impacts Leipsic, Van Buren Twp., Pleasant Twp. and Columbus Grove. I really believed the board heard our outcry and would seriously reconsider the closing of these two locations, as it impacts so many residents. It is voter suppression. Postponing the directive and re-examining the decision would be the sensible action. Yet, I was wrong again. I did not receive any communication from the board. Although, the last paragraph of my statement requested that we be apprised of the specific criteria used to determine what locations were to be closed; the exact dollar amount in cost savings in an itemized list; and if other polling sites charge for the use of their facilities. So, I attended the September BOE meeting. They were gracious enough to allow me to ask for the answers to my questions. I asked if they discussed the issue any further, taking our concerns into account. The board acknowledged they did have a “special meeting”. But, they declined to reverse their decision. They also advised that they can estimate that each location closed is saving $10,000. How? It is my understanding that these are state dollars and there is no problem with obtaining more machines. No other answers to my questions were provided. Was there any notice about the “Special Meeting”? Are there minutes from the special meeting? I really don’t understand how this board can completely ignore the residents of these two townships. As I continue my quest to reverse their decision, I have come to the conclusion that the BOE really doesn’t answer to anyone. As long as they are not breaking any laws, the Secretary of State does not get involved; The County Commissioners have no leverage; And, the BOE obviously is not concerned with county residents. So, I ask, who can help to rectify this atrocity?

Yes, I have lots of questions, and you should as well. Voting is incredibly important. I encourage everyone to vote this upcoming election. You can submit a request for an absentee ballot to the BOE. But, you must do so soon!!! You must also register to vote before October 7, 2019. Please visit the Board Of Elections website at CountyAgencies/BoardofElections or give them a call at 419-538-6850.