Lawyers may get first-ward dilemma

Lynn Chapin's home is not in the first ward. But knowing what that means for her election to the first-ward council seat is not that simple. Tom Gerrity, director of the board of elections, asked Kathy Kuhlman of the county's tax map department to use her mapping equipment and the city's ordinance outlining ward boundaries to create a map showing correct boundaries.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

 

Lynn Chapin's home is not in the first ward. But knowing what that means for her election to the first-ward council seat is not that simple.

Tom Gerrity, director of the board of elections, asked Kathy Kuhlman of the county's tax map department to use her mapping equipment and the city's ordinance outlining ward boundaries to create a map showing correct boundaries.

Kuhlman also gave a copy to the Reflector. The map clearly shows that Chapin's home at 95 N. Foster St. is in the fourth ward.

Board of election officials are now looking for legal advice on how to fill the seat if Chapin's eight-vote lead holds after absentee and provisional ballots are tallied. If she can't take the seat, does the Democratic party name her replacement or does Republican Scott Krichbaum win the seat? Lawyers will decide.

"We'll be hitting some law books," said Richard Hauser, president of the board. "We've already started." Hauser, a lawyer, is chairman of the Huron County Democratic party.

James Orth, who questioned first-ward candidate Lynn Chapin's residency at board offices on Tuesday, said he is also hiring an attorney to make sure the contradictions between city ordinances outlining ward boundaries and the board's computer information are solved.

"I'm hiring a private attorney with my own money," he said. "It'll cost at least $3,000. I'm going to follow this through until it's corrected."

Orth, a first-ward resident, said he and his son Jason realized that the board of elections might be using incorrect boundaries when they compared the location of Chapin's house to the location of Jason's house on Election Day.

Chapin said Thursday that her home used to be in the fourth ward, but she was notified by the board of elections in 2003 that the boundaries had changed based on the 2000 census.

"I don't think anybody did anything illegal," Orth said. "It's just a mistake, but it must be fixed." He has hired local attorney Harold Freeman to research the issue.

"This is not political," Orth said. "I don't care if it's a Democrat or a Republican representing me. I just want to make sure someone who lives in my ward represents me."

Orth served on the city's planning commission for 23 years.

Gerrity said his staff is still collecting information to turn over to the full board and Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler.

"I'm sure something's going to happen on this in the next couple of days," he said. "Right now we're just trying to pull everything together. In the very near future we'll probably be talking with the prosecuting attorney. There are a lot of 'what if' questions."

Hauser said that the timing of the discovery of mistakes will be crucial to the solution. The board of elections certified Chapin as eligible to run for the seat because their computer system listed her as a first-ward resident.

Hauser said Orth raised the question too late to disqualify Chapin as a candidate. Hauser said the matter is an issue of ballot qualifications versus office qualifications. Since she was certified to run for the first-ward seat and no one raised any objections before the election, the final results for the seat may stand, Hauser explained.

But city officials must determine whether she can legally represent the first ward while living the in the fourth ward. If the city determines that their laws keep her from being sworn into office, Hauser said, then the seat must be filled by the Democratic Party since a Democratic candidate won the most votes.

"I don't have any idea where this thing is going," he said.

Eventually the county prosecutor, city law director and secretary of state's office may all get involved, Hauser said.

Even a decision of who wins the first-ward seat doesn't settle the matter, however.

If Chapin's house is listed in the wrong ward in the board's computer system, other address are also incorrectly listed.

No one will speculate on how votes cast by other residents incorrectly listed in the first ward will be handled.

Gerrity said computer information was entered into the board's system before he and Sharon Locke, deputy director, joined the office so he doesn't know exactly how it was entered and who decided how to determine ward lines. But he did say board of elections personnel entered the information.

"It's going to get discussed," said Hauser.

Gerrity said a special board meeting may be called to discuss the issues before the next regular meeting on Nov. 16.

Comments

Concerned Voter...

" Nice work by the board of elections. I had little faith in them before...now I have none. Do they actually get compensated for being so inept? How do we replace them. Can we get our money back? Is the Board of elections subject to a recall vote? Could there be some civil liability? Is this the price we ultimately pay for using political appointees? What a mess. "

Idea (Anonymous)

Can Chapin represent the Third Ward even though she may or may not be in the First or Fourth Ward? I am interested in trading Stoll. If not, can we just trade Stoll for future considerations? In other words, we will just work it out later!

Maybe an idea would be to go to eight at-large candidates? I agree with 'Concerned Voter' that this is a complete mess. I read the wards in the paper and it just created more confusion. Instead of centerlines what about just using the complete street. If your address is on a particular street you are in a ward.

Oh, and Orth, not political? Try selling that somewhere else. What political party is your attorney from? Many people just wander down the street and randomly decide to go in the board of elections to question where a certain candidate lives THE DAY OF THE ELECTION!

Yes, this is a mess and will grow for some time.

re: idea (Anonymous)

Orth's issue may be politically motivated. It's an election, what other motive exist's? Regardless, his point seems legitimate. That said, speaking of motives, lets consider those involved in the dispute. Chapin works for the county, and is very invovlved in the Democtatic party organization. Hauser is President of the Board of Elections. He is also the chairman of the Huron County Democratic Party. Hardly an independent and objective voice. As an attorney, President of the Board of Elections, and chairman of the Democratic Party, it appears you've already demonstrated your ineptitude on behalf of the voters, and the democrative candidates of Huron County. That said, the officals investigating maps and records, Sharon Locke and Kathy Kuhlman on behalf of the citizens of the 1st ward are co workers of Chapin. Again, hardly objective.

re: re: Idea fr...

Exactly. It goes both ways with it. The politics will make it a mess. This will be anything but objective.