The new edition of the Vinton County Board of Elections members met Monday afternoon, March 29, to reorganize and discuss the preparations to hire a full-time Director and Deputy Director.

The meeting was led by Ohio Secretary of State Regional Liaison Lori Baldridge. The current Elections Board members are Carolyn Brown, Kim Wortman Nikki Harvey, and Benita Peters. Brown and Wortman were recently appointed to fill the vacancies left by former Elections Board members Nell Griffith and Letha Toops.

On Wednesday, March 3, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, announced he had rejected the proposed appointments of five county elections board members in the state, including the requested reappointments of Nell Griffith and Letha Toops in Vinton County. Griffith’s reappointment was requested by the Vinton County Republican Party Executive Committee and Toops’ reappointment was sought by the Vinton County Democratic Party Executive Committee.

In his news release, LaRose explained the rejected appointments to the Board of Elections were due to the fact that “significant deficiencies” were determined where board members did not provide “the standard of competence necessary” to continue in their respective roles. The Secretary of State also noted that he had placed the Vinton County Board of Elections on “Administrative Oversight,” effective Feb. 14 for a litany of issues and also wrote that the issues that led to Administrative Oversight have not adequately been addressed.

Five days later on March 8, the two full-time staff members of the Vinton County Elections Office, Director Lynn Herrold and Deputy Director Rachel Stewart, both submitted their resignations, effective immediately.

Since that time, the Vinton County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee recommended Wortman as its new appointee to the Elections Board to replace Toops while the Vinton County Republican Party’s Executive Committee recommended the appointment of Brown as its new Elections Board member. LaRose subsequently approved both appointments.

The March 29 meeting was the first one for the newly assembled Elections Board and predictably the main order of business was starting the process to choose a new Director and Deputy Director. Under Ohio law, one position must be filled by a Democrat and the other by a Republican. The job duties and responsibilities of the two positions are the same.

Following a discussion in executive session, the Elections Board agreed to post both positions and set up an application and deadline for applications. The application must be received by 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 17. Applications can be mailed to P.O. Box 314, 31935 St. Rt. 93, McArthur, Ohio 45651, and an applicant's questions can be answered by phone at 740-517-2640.

Until the two staff positions are filled, the Vinton County Elections Office will remain closed, but in-person appointments can be arranged by calling the Elections Office at 740-596-5855 and leaving a message. Also, Board members will be checking telephone messages, email and postal mail on a regular basis and taking care of as much essential business as possible.

The Director and Deputy Director are responsible for the preparation and conducting of all elections in Vinton County and overseeing all operations involved in the election process as specified in state law.

Successful candidates must reside in Vinton County within 30 days from the date of employment, must possess at least a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED). A college degree is desired and experience in election administration is preferred.

There were several other topics discussed at the meeting, including training costs. It’s anticipated that these costs will exceed $6,000 and are not included in the current Elections Board budget. Peters stated the Vinton County Commissioners have been made aware of this situation.

The strategic goal is to get the new Elections Board up and operating and to get Vinton County out of Administrative Oversight. There was also discussion about attending state and regional meetings.

The Elections Board members also discussed the addition of a time clock at the office.

“We've never had a time clock here, at least not as long as I have been here,” Peters stated. “That way there would be no issues on whether they were here or not. So this is something that I'm bringing up and I think it would be a wise thing to have.”

The Board plans to meet with the Commissioners soon and discuss many of these issues.