SIDNEY — “Boring is the goal at your Shelby County Board of Elections,” said Christopher R. Gibbs, chairperson. “I always lament to your Board staff and fellow members that, while elections themselves always seem to captivate the media and the public, the administration of elections should stay ‘below the fold’ of the Sidney Daily News. We are like umpires. We call balls, strikes and occasional outs, but aim to remain behind the plate and behind the scenes. While boring may be the goal, election administration these days seems to get pushed further into the spotlight. Today, that push-pull between transparency and anonymity is baked into the business of election administration.”
His report continues:
We came out of the gate in 2018 with a search for a new Democrat director. Boards of Election are structured with four members appointed by the Secretary of State. Two members are nominated to the secretary from the local Democratic Party and two are nominated from the local Republican Party. Those members hire a director and deputy director. Each director is from an opposite political party.
In February we were extremely fortunate to hire Pam Kerrigan as director. Pam came to the board with decades of administrative law experience including work in the Shelby County Prosecutor’s office. Her familiarity with local government policies and procedures gave her a unique foundation on which to build election administration knowledge. Pam, and recently hired Deputy Director Donnie Chupp, gave the public fresh new faces ready to learn the ins and outs of election administration.
The May primary election was uneventful. Candidates for governor and down ticket races appeared on the ballot, all with the expectation of graduating to the November general election. Leadership positions for state and local political parties also appeared, but those races were terminal and ended with the May primary.
The summer was spent preparing for a successful November general election. At any given countywide election, your Board occupies 18 different polling places and employs over 150 precinct election officials to manage voting in 35 precincts. Dozens of ballot styles must be designed, and preparations must be made for the start of absentee ‘by mail’ and ‘in person’ voting. This year, the US Department of Homeland Security assisted with funding and guidance to stress test your Board computer systems to ensure they were shielded from outside adverse influence. All Shelby County Board of Election systems passed. The November general election went off without a hitch.
In 2019 the board will recommend to the County Commission new ballot scanners for all 35 precincts. Also to be purchased will be new ballot marking machines required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. These changes will be in place for the November election at the latest and will generally be transparent to the voter/user. Funding will come almost exclusively from the state. Although there will be new equipment, voters can be assured they will continue to see paper ballots. This board is resolute that paper ballots give voters the maximum amount of confidence in the event of a recount or challenge to a race or election. At the end of the day, voter confidence is the foundation of our democracy.
Finally, we expect some policy changes to be handed down from our new Secretary of State Frank LaRose. As those work their way through to county Boards of Election we will pass the changes on through available media outlets. But below the fold.
I am the chairperson for the Shelby County Board of Elections and I serve with members Chuck Craynon, Jon Baker and Merrill Asher.