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05-25-05 Area election board might be one short for big vote

By Lance Mihm

  WAPAKONETA -- Auglaize County Board of Elections member Wanda Kogge resigned from her seat during a meeting Tuesday.

  Her resignation could complicate matters for the board if they are forced to select a new voting system next week.
  Auglaize County board of elections is one of 20 counties that have joined a voting-machine maker's lawsuit to extend the state's deadline for qualifying touch-screen systems. The judge in the case has given other counties until Friday to join it.
  Any county who is a part of Election Systems & Software's lawsuit, such as Auglaize County, or joins in will have the deadline for picking a voting system extended until June 3, the judge ruled this week.
  If the June 3 deadline sticks, Auglaize County board of election members are concerned about having enough members to vote. Kogge's resignation is effective May 27, and board member Diane Hausfeld will not be available for a meeting next week. It would leave the board with only two members, and board members were unclear if that would be considered a majority of a three-person board if no one has been appointed to Kogge's vacancy.  Republican party chairman Wayne York has planned a June 9 meeting to nominate a person for the spot.
  ES&S and Blackwell's office have been in negotiations since the company filed the lawsuit on May 2. It asserts that the process by which Diebold won certification for its voting machines was unfair. Blackwell disagrees, saying the same rules applied to all manufacturers. Diebold has the only touch-screen machine to meet certification standards.
  Judge Dale Crawford of Franklin County Common Pleas Court has scheduled a hearing for June 3 on ES&S's request to keep Blackwell from enforcing the May 13 deadline for manufacturers to receive certification by the state Board of Voting Machine Examiners and from federal elections officials.
  ES&S says it will meet certifications by the end of August at the latest. Blackwell wants systems to be in place for November's municipal elections and says that new systems must be on line by Jan. 1 in case of a special congressional election.
  The federal Help America Vote Act requires that new systems be in place for the first federal elections of 2006. Congress passed the act in response to the 2000 election debacle in Florida. The federal government is paying $115 million for the upgrade in Ohio's 88 counties.
  Auglaize County Elections Director Linda Householder and the board has said they are interest in staying with ES&S. However, ES &S has only certified its optical scan machines. Diebold has certified both touch screen and optical scan machines. If the county would want to use touch screens, they would have to switch to Diebold under current deadlines.
  Kogge only cited personal reasons for her resignation Tuesday, but she has been under scrutiny lately for ongoing problems at the board of elections office. Former board Director Jean Burklo was dismissed from her position in April after Blackwell's office found violations in laws governing petitions, public records, office administration and the voting process. The report also concluded that the board was not active enough in office functions.
  "We, the board, feel we did not receive a fair, unbiased and impartial investigation from your office," Kogge said in her resignation letter. "I, as do the other board members, take exception to any statements cited in your report, which I will not get into in this letter. Contrary to the report from your office, the board was and is proactive and is involved with the operation of the board office."
  -- The Associated Press Contributed to this story.


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