In November, the Delaware County Agricultural Society held its elections for the board of directors, as it does each year. However, that election was flagged by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) for rules violations it deemed to have compromised the integrity of the Nov. 13 election.
The ODA sent a notice to Delaware County Agricultural Society President Don Howard on Nov. 20, highlighting ODA’s concerns on how the election was conducted. Specifically, the letter pointed to section 901-5-05 of the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC), which outlines the responsibilities of both the election judges and clerks.
According to the OAC guidelines, and as stipulated in the ODA’s letter, election judges are to “verify the right of each member to vote before they issue ballots” and “permit no member of a society to vote by proxy or by absentee ballot.”
In regard to election clerks, the letter points out they are to “register the name of each person who votes, tally the count on poll books and tally sheets supplied by the department, and place one copy of said poll book and tally sheet on file with the secretary of the society.”
After reviewing the poll books and tally sheets, the ODA determined the Delaware County Agricultural Society failed to comply with those provisions.
The letter sent by the ODA also mentions receiving “complaints regarding election clerks and/or judges,” and references of the OAC again. Per section 901-5-05(C) of the OAC, the letter states, “The president of each society shall appoint three judges and two clerks. The election judges and clerks shall remain impartial and avoid any conflicts of interest while conducting and declaring the results of the election of directors.”
When reached out to for comment, Howard told The Gazette among the problems the ODA found with the election was having individuals working the election who were also of relation to those running for election. He said that has been the case in the past, and he “never even thought about that” being an issue.
Howard, who served as the judge for the now-invalid election, said the board operates from the Ohio Revised Code, which he said “doesn’t specifically say anything (about any relation between election workers and potential electees.)”
Rather than using the proper books required by the ODA, Howard said a simple checklist was utilized to document voters as they checked in to vote. He also said it was news to him that the ODA requires two sets of books to be kept. Howard said that in the past, only one book has been kept, which is sent to the ODA. No book is kept with the society.
Howard added he requested the ODA monitor this second election to ensure everything is being done in accordance with the OAC.
“Nothing was intentional,” Howard said. “We thought we were doing everything by the book, but, apparently, we weren’t.”
Asked what steps might be taken to ensure there are no issues with elections moving forward, Howard said the board of directors is in the process of “putting everything we’ve learned into writing so that we have a procedural manual for future elections, so nothing like this ever happens again.”
Delaware County Agricultural Society Vice President Tom Wright has been appointed the judge of the new election, which will be held Thursday, Dec. 13, at the log cabin at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Voting hours will remain the same as the previous election, with windows from 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 1-7 p.m. As always, voters must bring either their gold 2018 agricultural society membership card or some form of picture identification.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.