The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Jul. 18, 2019

Election Bd. office moves to new location

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The Van Wert County Board of Elections has now moved into its new facility at the corner of Ervin and Jennings roads — a building that finally gives the board the space and parking needed with the increase in early voting seen in the county.

Renovations are under way on a space that will be used for early voting and Election Day voting for Van Wert city and Pleasant Township precincts. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Elections Director Linda Stutz said she and her staff had been looking for a new site for approximately three years, but noted that process accelerated following the 2018 gubernatorial election that saw nearly 5,000 people vote early in the board’s cramped office on East Main Street. Stutz said one of the biggest problems was parking.

“The parking was becoming a real dilemma with the early voting,” she said, noting that parking spaces were often hard to find near the board’s Main Street office.

After looking at what Stutz said was probably every vacant building in the city, the board had looked longingly at the East Ervin Road building earlier, but things didn’t work out then. Later, realtor Warren Straley said he thought he had a building that would work.

Stutz said that when she and Assistant Elections Director Brenda Weaver saw it was the East Ervin Road building, they knew he was right.

“I looked at Brenda and we both went: This is what we’ve been wanting,” Stutz said.

Straley had another surprise waiting, though, Stutz said, noting that after viewing the office space in the building, Straley also offered them adjacent space that could be used for early voting and even as an Election Day voting site for city and Pleasant Township voters.

With Stutz, Weaver, and the board now very interested in the building, the next step was finding the money to pay for rent and other items needed for the new site. Stutz said some budget cuts needed to be made to provide money for the new building, but renting out the Main Street office to the Van Wert County Department of Job and Family Services, which was looking for more space, provided the extra money needed to pay rent at the new site.

Stutz said parking is no longer a problem at the board’s new site, which was formerly Pangles supermarket and later a storefront church.

The new building also provides plenty of room for the elections board offices, including space for a kitchen/breakroom area, a stand-alone boardroom, a much larger main office area, a computer room, and plenty of storage area.

The new facility also offers early voters and those who vote in Van Wert city and Pleasant Township precincts a “one stop shop” experience. The space adjacent to the board office will be used for early voting and will also replace the Van Wert County Council on Aging as the voting site for the 15 Van Wert city precincts and three Pleasant Township precincts.

The Board of Elections’ new facility offers space for a formal boardroom (above) that can also be used as private space for meetings.

The advantages over the current situation are many, but Stutz said the main benefit is that the new voting space will be permanent, rather than elections board staff and volunteers having to set up voting booths and equipment for each election, and then move them out again when it’s over.

While the board office is now mostly moved to the new site, Stutz said the T-1 line needed to communicate with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office in Columbus has not yet been relocated to the new building. She noted that John Butler, the county’s IT coordinator, has been very helpful in setting up office computers and other equipment, but the T-1 line can only be moved by AT&T, and that may not happen until October, Stutz noted.

That means staff members are not currently able to communicate directly with state elections officials, but need to use “snail mail” to send information to Columbus.

At present, the space to be used for early voting and Election Day voting for city and Pleasant Township voters is being renovated, but Stutz said work should be completed well in advance of General Election voting this November.

With new voting machines coming in on Monday, Stutz said some time will also be needed for training on the new machines, although she noted they’re basically just newer versions of the old voting machines.

She added that the telephone number remains the same (419.238.4192), as does the office’s email address: http://vanwert@sos.state.oh.us.

POSTED: 07/12/19 at 8:04 am. FILED UNDER: News