Members of the Lake school board haven’t decided whether to file a complaint about what they describe as “irregularities” at a precinct polling location during the special election Tuesday.
Board president Tim Krugh said Wednesday he believes there was an attempt to “discourage some pretty supportive voters” of the district but the board would address the matter later.
Voters approved a 6.75-mill operating levy Tuesday by 137 votes: 1,501 for to 1,364 against, according to unofficial results of the Wood County Board of Elections.
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.
One section of the poll worker manual contributed to 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 Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Lake High School, 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 Ohio Secretary of State’s office and the 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 secretary of state.
Once word of Herman’s experience at the polls spread, another district employee stood outside the township building and offered brightly-colored construction worker vests to any prospective voter wearing Lake apparel so they could cover themselves.
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.
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.”
Krugh said he talked with one man by phone who initially left the polls and didn’t vote after being advised he must cover or remove the Lake apparel. The man agreed to return and vote, Krug said. “We don’t know. There may have been others.”