A brief section of the Wood County Poll Worker Manual led to some confusion Tuesday at a precinct in Lake Township where voters are deciding a 6.75-mill school operating levy.
When Lee Herman, high school principal, went to vote shortly after 7 a.m. at precinct 420 in the township administration building, he was wearing a dark blue short-sleeved shirt with the Lake logo.
He said he was told by precinct workers he’d have to cover the shirt, take it off, or turn the shirt inside out, or he wouldn’t be allowed to vote.
The shirt made no reference to the levy issue.
A line in the poll worker manual caused the confusion. It reads: “Candidates/campaigners are allowed to vote, of course, but they must NOT wear any electioneering clothes or accessories while in the polling location.”
Herman, at a press conference held at Lake High School at 1 p.m., said he complied with the poll workers but said he would have been turned away if he hadn’t.
School officials said they contacted the Wood County Board of Elections for clarification of the rule but fear other voters wearing Lake apparel may have become frustrated and opted to not vote while the board was awaiting an opinion on the matter from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
Terry Burton, a director of the county board of elections, said the board contacted the secretary of state’s office by about 9:15 a.m. and by 9:30 a.m. the county board contacted the polling locations with the opinion that school apparel would be permitted as long as it didn’t mention voting for or against the levy.
Dolores Swineford, assistant middle and high school principal, said during the press conference she wore the same shirt today that she wore when voting last November, when she wasn’t told she’d have to cover it up. On the back of the shirt it state’s “vote yes.”
Today, when she was told to cover her shirt,” I was flabbergasted,” she said.
Voters in Precinct 390 also cast their ballots at the township administration building.
Donna Tajblik, presiding judge at precinct 420, acknowledged the section of the manual was ambiguous but said no one was turned away.
“We called Bowling Green immediately,” she said, adding some poll workers even offered their sweaters so voters wearing Lake apparel could cover it. “We have to remain neutral.”
Burton said the county board office started getting calls shortly after 8 a.m. from several Lake residents who had heard about the matter and wanted to “voice their displeasure.”
Tim Krugh, Lake school board president, said he believed there may have been an intentional attempt to suppress voting.
He said the board will decide later whether or not to file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
“Our problem is we don’t know how much damage was done,” Jim Witt, district superintendent, said Tuesday.
Voters approved the levy, according to unofficial results of the board of elections.