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Democrat Replaces Republican at Franklin Co. Elections Board

With only two days before the Ohio primary, there's been a shake-up at the Franklin County Board of Elections. Republican Matt Damschroder was removed as director Sunday. He'll remain as a consultant through the end of the year. There have been reports of friction between Damschroder and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat.

Moments after convening Sunday afternoon, the Franklin County Board of Elections went into executive session. When the session was over, board chairman William Anthony Jr., made a nomination:

" and I would like to nominate Dennis L. White to the full term of director of the Franklin County Board of Commission "

The nomination was restated, seconded and approved - three members voting in favor; Kimberly Marinello abstaining. After the meeting, the new director, Denny White, predicted there would be little change.

"Matt and I have worked together well for the last two years and this will not at all interfere with the working relationship I have with Matt Damshroder or the respect that we have for each other."

A news report said Saturday that Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was unhappy with Damschroder and was concerned with the accuracy of the balloting in Franklin County. But White, also a Democrat, dismissed that.

"I've been involved in elections campaigns for 25-plus years. I think we have one of the best boards of elections in the country. I'm proud of everybody that works here. We don't have the problems that other election boards are having."

Board member Michael Colley said Damschroder's removal was "predictable." The state has a new Democratic administration, and a majority of Franklin County's precincts voted Democratic in the last election.

Also at Sunday's meeting, William Anthony stepped down from his chairman's position. State law requires that an elections board with a Democratic director must have a board chair who's a Republican. New board member and county Republican Party head Doug Preisse was elected to that position.

By law, the board must reorganize during the period of March 2nd through March 5th. Asked if the reorganization just before the election might raise more doubts in voters' minds, Preisse said this:

"There's a prescribed timeframe in which we must reorganize and we're within that timeframe. And I think as a board we found a way to keep the same people here doing essentially the same jobs thereby insuring the continuity and no big changes right before an important election.

It was rumored that Damshroder would become deputy director of the Franklin County board, but that did not happen Sunday. However, he was voted an $11,000-a-month fee as a consultant, a figure close to his previous salary. That appointment runs through the end of December. His successor, Denny White, says Damschroder is an important part of Franklin County's elections operations.

"Matt knows our operation well, he understands our voting systems, all the systems in the state and he'll be an important part of the election process here."

The board also voted to keep its downtown headquarters open on Monday an additional four hours. Because of the rush of last minute voters, balloting at 280 East Broad Street is extended Monday night until 9.