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Friday, November 9th, 2007

City of Celina not to blame in voting dispute

By Pat Royse

The receipt that former city auditor Pat Smith collected from former elections d. . .

The city of Celina is off the hook for any blame in a dispute between the Mercer County Elections Office and a couple of city residents who say they were denied the right to vote in city elections.
In that dispute, reported by The Daily Standard on Wednesday, Seth Green, 21, and his brother Cody Stanfill, 18, both of 122 Lakeview Drive said they have lived in the city limits since their area was annexed at least two years ago and the working members of the household have been paying city income taxes. So they were a little flummoxed when they realized their ballots had only township and county issues on it. They complained to the poll workers.
But elections officials said that, according to their rolls, the two voters lived outside the city limits, Green reported. Moreover, after further checking, the elections office staff said it had never received any notification from the city of an annexation that included their address.
Their request for a paper ballot with city issues was denied.
Eventually proof that the city had properly notified the elections office of the annexation of a small section of land off state Route 703 in 2003 that included their portion of Lakeview Drive was pulled from the files of the Celina auditor Thursday morning.
Former city auditor Pat Smith, now retired, remembered the annexation paperwork and the receipt he got when he filed it with Diana Grile, who had been deputy director of elections for a couple of years. The current city auditor, Emily Stewart, called the Board of Elections on Thursday morning to report the find.
In the brouhaha that followed, Elections Deputy Director Denise Fullenkamp said she called Green and Stanfill and said she would take a paper ballot from them if they would come to the elections office that day. Tuesday.
But Green countered that the household no longer has a land phone line - all members now have cell phones and no one got a call. He and other household members were at work and Stanfill was in school.
Still upset, Green went to the tax mapping office on Wenesday morning to track down what happened. Carl Huber of that office said he could find the legal description of the annexed property but not the map. It looked to Green like the city had indeed slipped up and he criticized the city strongly. The Daily Standard ran his quote in Wednesday's newspaper.
After hearing that the city auditor had indeed notified the elections board, Green said he talked to Celina Mayor Sharon La Rue on Thursday and apologized for his comment about the city. LaRue said she was pleased that the city did the right thing and that it took courage for Green to call and personally apologize.
The correct map that shows Lakeview Drive within the city limits was found on the wall of the back room of the elections office Thursday morning. The precinct map on the front office wall apparently has been out of date for sometime.
In light of the controversy over Green and Stanfill's voting problems, as well as another voter in Franklin Township also getting the wrong ballot, this time for the village elections, Elections Board Chairman Del Kramer has called a special meeting of the board in the elections office.
Fullenkamp has been at the center of controversy before. In the run-up to this week's election, Fullenkamp was accused of unethical behavior. A candidate for the county Educational Service Center board made the accusations after Fullenkamp rejected her elections petition for lack of valid signatures. Fullenkamp's husband, Matt, was running for the same office.
When Fullenkamp was hired as the board's director a few years ago, the Secretary of State had to intervene. The controversy in that case was Fullenkamp's political affiliation. She was then a Democrat but had vowed to switch to the Republican Party at the next primary election.
She eventually was given the director's appointment but has since been moved to deputy director after a reorganization of the elections board.
Green said he still has not made up his mind if he will pursue legal action against the Board of Elections.
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