Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's pick of former state lawmaker Sandra Stabile Harwood to fill an empty spot on the Trumbull County Board of Elections served Democrats and Republicans well on an often hotly contested issue.
Harwood, a Democrat who represented the 65th Ohio House District for eight years (she was term-limited out last year), faced an early challenge when a board Republican proposed eliminating nearly one-third of polling locations in Trumbull County.
Former Trumbull County GOP chairman Craig Bonar said taking the 238 precincts down to 146 would save tens of thousands of dollars in election-related expenses and cut down on errors caused by people voting in the wrong precinct.
Harwood resisted at the April meeting, her first, citing concerns about the timing of Bonar's proposal and any impact of a bill in Columbus that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls.
She also needed more time to review the proposal, which had just been presented to her that day.
Bonar had been pushing to have the reform approved sooner than later to have it in place for the November general election. For that to happen, elections board workers needed approval by the end of May.
Harwood and fellow Democrat Christ Michelakis, former Democratic party chairman, agreed with Republicans recently to a much more modest reduction of 28 precincts.
Chief among the concerns for the two Democrats were voting numbers and creating the potential for long lines, especially given two highly controversial issues potentially on the fall ballot - the Senate Bill 5 referendum and health care repeal.
"I don't want to do anything to take away the easy access to voting,'' Harwood said then.
And they didn't.
The move simultaneously saves the elections board money, about $25,000 an election, and cuts down on the potential for error - something Bonar and other GOP board member Kathi Creed, county Republican Party chairwoman, wanted. Also, it preserves voter ease at the polls on Election Day - what the Democrats wanted.
The average is 856 voters per consolidated precinct, with the largest having 977 under the new plan. That's far below what's allowable under Ohio law, 1,400 voters per precinct, a number Harwood and Michelakis didn't want to near.
Other revised proposals would have cut between 44 and 75 precincts.
Harwood's placement on the board wasn't without controversy, but the debate didn't center around the former state representative. Instead, it swirled around Trumbull County Democratic Party Chairman and county Commissioner Dan Polivka.
Polivka's attempt to fill the board spot left open by Niles Mayor Ralph Infante, who had to resign to run for re-election, was rebuffed by Husted, who reasoned the positions of commissioner and elections board member were incompatible due to conflicts of interest.
Polivka, who says he never questioned Harwood's fitness to serve, was irked by Husted, who Polivka claimed side-stepped the local party's power to recommend a new board member.
Husted's spokesman said the office stands behind its process to select Harwood, saying in an email that she would do a great job and serve the county well.