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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CUYAHOGA COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS

CUYAHOGA COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS

The CUYAHOGA COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS was organized in 1886 to supervise elections and administer Ohio's new voter registration law, passed the previous year. Cleveland's city council re-divided the city into 40 wards, established precincts, and appointed two registrars (a Democrat and a Republican) in each precinct where, at stated times, they were stationed at the voting place to register the voters who appeared. The board had to provide additional facilities allowing voters to mark their ballot in secret when Ohio approved use of the Australian ballot in 1891. The bipartisan board was made up of two Democrats and two Republicans recommended by each party's Executive Committee to Ohio's secretary of state, who made the appointment. From its own members, the board elected a chairman, a clerk, and a deputy clerk to supervise elections and establish procedures, and appointed election officials for each precinct. Use of political patronage was always a part of board activity as Republican and Democratic board members, who controlled hiring, shared equally in filling the available jobs; however, it usually operated in relative obscurity until evidence of wrongdoing or misconduct surfaced. For example, when results of the Aug. 1928 primary became suspect and the grand jury uncovered widespread fraud in vote-counting. As a result the entire board was replaced, 31 precinct officers were indicted, and 378 were removed. Board errors became news in 1992 when computer rigging, double voting, and missing ballots were discovered in the aftermath of the June primary.