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Ohio’s redistricting uncertainty causes strain on local election workers

Three voting stations, two with a voting machine and one without at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. The red and blue logo is above the stations on the wall, with the motto: SAFE: Secure, Accurate, Fair, Efficient
Garrett Reese
/
WYSO
Election officials are preparing for the May 3 primary election in Ohio, despite not having approved legislative maps or finalized ballots.

Montgomery County Board of Elections officials say more than half of directors and deputies in Southwest Ohio have left since 2020.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered that Ohio House and Senate races be removed from primary ballots because there are no approved legislative maps. Voters continue to face uncertainty about what to expect as the May 3 election date grows closer, and election workers are also feeling the strain.

Over the last two years, local staff at election boards have had to deal with COVID-19, misinformation about election security and high staff turnover rates. Montgomery County Board of Elections officials say that more than half of directors and deputies in southwest Ohio have left since 2020.

Now, workers are preparing for the election in less than two months without finalized maps or ballots.

Director of Montgomery County Board of Elections, Jeffery Rezabek & Deputy Director Sara Greathouse
Garrett Reese
/
WYSO
In 14 southwestern Ohio counties, 1 in 4 directors or deputy auditors of elections has left.

Director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections Jeff Rezabek said his staff is under a lot of stress.

“You can sit there and argue about what the maps look like and how it affects politically. I get that,” he said. “But sooner or later the system is going to break. The stress on this system is going to get too much.”

Still, he is confident his team will be ready to carry out a safe voting process on May 3.

Deputy Director Sarah Greathouse also stressed that there are safeguards and processes to ensure an accurate and secure election, describing the security of the election management system as impenetrable, “an island on the Pacific.” She says the staff is taking on the rewarding and complicated work, but that they are in need of a break.

“When you compress deadlines, when you create uncertainty, when you create stress, it is inevitable. Something somewhere has got to give,” she said. “At some point we'd just like to have a really nice, boring election year.”

Montgomery County voter precincts change

Some voter precincts have been redrawn in Montgomery County due to changes in population. There are more than 20 new precincts in the county to account for growing populations in places including Washington Township, Huber Heights and Centerville, according to the Board of Elections. The changes will rebalance how many voters are assigned to each polling site to reduce wait times.

“We had a number of problems with our polling locations where if you lived at one particular address, you might drive by a polling location that's not yours,” said Rezabek. “We've had to reassess that and redistribute those precincts, as well as add those new precincts to certain polling locations."

Officials said they plan to send out postcards in April to voters whose polling location has changed. Beginning Tuesday March 29, voters can look up their updated polling site on the Montgomery County Board of Elections website.

Dates and Deadlines

Deadline to register to vote: April 4

Early voting (at the Board of Elections at 451 W. Third St.):

  • April 5-22, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • April 25-30, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • May 1, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • May 2, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting: begins April 5, ballot must be delivered to the Board of Elections by May 23

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.
Garrett is a WYSO intern and graduate of University of Dayton. He spent time covering the Dayton area with WDTN Channel 2 News after the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado outbreak. It was around this time that he began listening to NPR and fell in love with radio-based journalism. Garrett graduated from UD in May of 2021 with his Bachelor’s in Communications with a focus in journalism and graduated in May of 2022 with his Master’s. While not working at WYSO, Garrett is an avid reader, loves to play video games, and hanging out with his friends.