Election observers from U.N. meet with local officials



Election observers from the United Nations visited Hancock County on Sunday as part of a study on how the battleground state keeps it fair at the polls. Andrew McEntee, of the United Kingdom, and Kirsten Mogensen, of Denmark, are both long-term observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. They met with Dick Larick, chairman of the Hancock County Republican Executive Committee, and Nancy Stephani, chairwoman of the Hancock County Democrats. Both Larick and Stephani also serve on the Hancock County Board of Elections. Larick, who has been actively involved in politics for 35 years, said the meeting with election monitors was something new for him. According to the organization, observers have been sent to polling locations across the United States since 2002 to learn about election administration and campaigning. They are usually members of government from 56 member countries in Europe and Central Asia. The United States is also a member and sends observers, through the U.S. State Department, to other member nations during nationwide elections. Before their visit to Hancock County on Sunday, McEntee and Mogensen met with election officials from Columbus and Cincinnati. Larick said the monitors asked a lot of questions about how the election board and the political parties were organized locally. They seemed to be receiving a much warmer reception in Ohio than in Texas, where Attorney General Greg Abbott threatened to arrest them last week. Abbott warned the organization that its observers would be prosecuted if found within 100 feet of a polling place. During the Findlay visit, both Larick and Stephani agreed that local elections are handled fairly and properly, but that's where they parted company. A debate about Issue 2 returned them to their party lines. Issue 2 is a constitutional amendment that will appear on the November ballot. It would establish a commission, appointed by judges, to draw the boundaries of Ohio's political districts every 10 years. Larick doesn't favor constitutional amendments and said Issue 2 will not take the politics out of establishing Ohio's political boundaries. "It will only move the politics to the judicial side," he said. "They don't think it is the right fix. Well, if it isn't, then we can fix it, but we need to do something," Stephani said. And while she feels that local elections are fair, Stephani did raise objections to the observers about attempts to limit early voting in Ohio. She also complained about voter identification laws, which she said suppress voters. "I also shared my dismay about billboards being placed in Ohio's largest cities warning about voter fraud," said Stephani. "They were only placed in the poorest neighborhoods in Ohio and Florida, and were clearly a tactic to scare voters. They are being taken down." Calls placed to McEntee and Mogensen were not returned on Monday. Grant: 419-427-8412 Send an e-mail to Denise Grant
Periode30 okt. 2012