Voting begins for Nov. 3 election
- Published: October 16, 2020
Election Day — Tuesday, Nov. 3 — is less than a month away, and election season in Ohio is in full swing.
Early voting opened on Oct. 6, and the first batch of absentee ballots was mailed to voters by the Greene County Board of Elections this week. Voters have until a postmark deadline of Nov. 2 to return completed absentee ballots — but voting rights groups and election officials are urging voters to request and return ballots as soon as possible to ensure that their votes are counted.
The News is kicking off a month of election coverage with brief profiles of candidates from two separate contested area races, as well as an update on absentee and early voting. Other candidate profiles will appear in upcoming issues.
Progressive for state rep
First up, Democrat Kim McCarthy, running for state representative from the 73rd district.
The Bellbrook resident and Australia native is vying with Fairborn Republican Brian Lampton for the open seat vacated by Rep. Rick Perales due to term limits. While the seat has been held by Republicans for all but six of the last 54 years — the district has been based in Greene County since 1966, and was represented by Yellow Springs Democrat Jim Zehner from 1977 to 1982 — McCarthy believes she has a good shot at winning.
“When you are able to explain to people what progressive policies can do, it is possible to bring people to your side,” she said.
It’s her second run, having faced incumbent Rep. Perales in 2018. She lost the earlier race 40% to 60% — a strong showing for a newcomer Democrat in a heavily Republican district against an incumbent, according to McCarthy.
“It was hard to not to want to build on that,” she said of her second attempt.
Currently employed as an accounting manager at PQ Systems in Dayton, McCarthy, 51, has been politically active for a decade, first with the Occupy movement and more recently in Greene County politics.
Interviewed online by the News last week, she described a broadly progressive political agenda, with three priority issues.
The first is school funding. McCarthy sees the recent spate of failed school levies in Greene County as proof that area property owners are “maxed out” by years of state defunding of schools, putting the burden on local districts.
“State government has a constitutional responsibility to provide equitable schools,” she said. Ohio hasn’t lived up to that, she added.
McCarthy said she supports school funding formula reform, calling the recent bipartisan Cupp-Patterson plan a “serious attempt.” While that plan would increase state funding for schools, particularly for economically disadvantaged students, it doesn’t identify where the money would come from, she said.
In her view, the state should reverse tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy — including a $800 cap on sales tax for fractional ownership of private jets — and instead invest in K–12 and higher education.
“The state has much greater reserves” than local districts, she said.
A second priority is healthcare. McCarthy said she is committed to protecting Ohio’s Medicaid expansion, a program that covers 21% of Ohioans overall and 40% of Ohio children, according to a 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation study.
Having grown up in Australia under universal health care, McCarthy supports working toward such a system here.
“I realize we are a long way from a universal system in Ohio. But that has to be our ultimate goal,” she said.
A third priority is climate change, specifically investing in renewable energy sources and repealing House Bill 6. The so-called “nuclear bailout bill” subsidizes nuclear energy in Ohio and guts the state’s renewable energy program, and has been widely decried by progressives and others.
“I stand for a full repeal of HB 6,” McCarthy said.
The bill is entangled in an alleged $60 million bribery and conspiracy scheme, according to this summer’s federal criminal complaint against former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others.
The scheme has been an issue in the 73rd district race. According to allegations by McCarthy that her opponent has partially denied, Lampton’s campaign received funds from a Householder co-conspirator and aligned organizations. Lampton subsequently donated a portion of that money to charity.
To McCarthy, the upcoming election is crucial for all levels of government.
“It’s an important election for our democracy,” she said. “There’s no less of a threat at the state level.”
State representatives in Ohio serve a maximum of four two-year terms. As set by law, the job will pay an annual base salary of $67,493 in 2021.
Probate judge challenger
A longtime Yellow Springs resident is looking to unseat a judge in the probate division of the Greene County Court of Common Pleas.
Criminal defense attorney Mark Babb, 47, said in an interview on his Yellow Springs porch last week that he’s running for probate judge because incumbent Tom O’Diam has embroiled the county in litigation and acted improperly regarding a family member’s appearances before the court.
“I have problems with the ways probate court is being handled,” he said.
Babb is managing partner at the Fairborn-based firm Babb, Anderson, Rowland and Smith LLC. He is running as an Independent against O’Diam, a Republican appointed in 2013 by then-Gov. John Kasich. The Greene County Bar Association recently endorsed Babb.
O’Diam was involved in a legal dispute with Greene County Board of Commissioners over the use of courtroom space, and ordered the county to pay his attorney’s fees incurred in the dispute. In July, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the county was not obligated to pay the fees.
The wording of the decision was “quite harsh,” according to Babb.
O’Diam has presented his side of the dispute on his campaign website, emphasizing the need for more space in his courtroom and accepting, but disagreeing with, the high court’s decision.
Babb also contends that O’Diam has not avoided the “appearance of impropriety” in hearing cases in which his daughter is an attorney, as well as receiving stock redemptions from his former law firm, which is also his daughter’s firm.
O’Diam vigorously denied any impropriety in a recent article in the Dayton Daily News.
Probate court primarily handles wills, estates and guardianships. “It’s the kind of court you don’t know about until you need it,” Babb said.
As a criminal defense attorney, Babb does not practice probate law, but supervises lawyers in that area. While that means he is less experienced than his opponent, a longtime probate lawyer, Babb said he believes the qualities a judge brings to the bench are more important than experience in a specific area of law.
“A probate judge needs to be compassionate, sensitive to people’s needs and fair,” he said.
He added that he has appeared before 40 judges in his career, including some he considers models and mentors, such as Fairborn Municipal Court Judge Beth Cappelli.
“I know what good judges do,” he said.
And though judicial candidates overall are less visible than legislators to many voters, Babb sees judges as having a significant impact on people’s lives.
“Judges make a real difference,” he said.
An Akron native who has lived in Yellow Springs for 25 years, Babb is known to some villagers as a musician. He plays acoustic guitar and other instruments, and released an album in 2018. His wife, Janet Mueller, is a professional mediator who is involved in the Village Mediation Program. Their two children attend local schools.
Ohio judges are elected for six years. As set by law, the common pleas court judge job will pay an annual salary of $152,811 in 2021.
Absentee ballot update
Absentee ballots are on their way to voters who’ve already requested them.
Greene County Board of Elections is sending out 31,722 ballots to voters in the county this week, according to Director Llyn McCoy.
“We are caught up,” she said, referring to the volume of election mail that’s come into the county elections office for processing by eight full-time employees and eight seasonal workers.
According to the state’s online absentee ballot tracking system, Greene County has received several hundred to a few thousand absentee ballot requests each weekday since early July. The county elections office has been processing applications as they come in, according to McCoy, but by state law absentee ballots cannot be mailed to voters until the day after Ohio voter registration closes.
Voter registration ended on Oct. 5, so off the ballots went.
To be counted, voted absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2, the day before Election Day, and received by the elections board by Nov. 13. Voters must pay for and affix 70 cents in postage. Voters can also return completed ballots by hand to the secure drop box outside the board of elections office, located at 551 Ledbetter Road in Xenia. Ballots returned by drop box must be received by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
Those who wish to vote absentee but haven’t yet requested an absentee ballot can do so by downloading an application at the elections board website, boe.ohio.gov/greene. Requests must be received by noon on Oct. 31 — but voters are strongly advised to apply as soon as possible to avoid missing the Nov. 2 postmark deadline.
So far, Greene County has processed just under 1,500 absentee ballot requests from Yellow Springs. That’s almost half of the approximately 3,200 registered voters in the village. By contrast, fewer than 500 local voters cast their ballot by mail in the 2016 general election.
But while absentee voting is on track to be unprecedently popular in Ohio this year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not the only way to vote in the upcoming general election.
Other ways to vote
Early voting — in-person voting prior to Election Day — has always been popular in Greene County, according to McCoy. About 20,000 voters in the county typically cast their ballots that way, out of 115,000 or more registered voters.
Early voting began this week at the county elections board office. The elections office is open for early voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 16, with expanded days and hours closer to the election.
Masks are required, though no voter will be turned away if they refuse to wear a mask, McCoy said. And she cautioned that lines may be especially long due to social distancing measures that limit capacity in the office and increase the space between people in line.
“We’re used to long lines in Greene County, and these lines are going to be even longer,” she said.
And finally, voters can cast their ballot at their polling place on Election Day. The polling place for Yellow Springs and Miami Township voters is Antioch University Midwest, located at 900 Dayton-Yellow Springs Road.
Despite a slow start to poll worker recruitment over the summer amid pandemic fears, as of Oct. 2, the county had 498 out of 584 needed poll workers, according to McCoy. She considers that amount sufficient, she added, particularly given this year’s recruitment of area high school students to work as poll “greeters.” Students will also be sanitizing equipment and helping in other ways, though they are not qualified to serve as poll workers, McCoy added.
Local residents who won’t be voting this election are noncitizen villagers. While local voters last spring passed an amendment to the Village of Yellow Springs Charter allowing noncitizen residents to vote for local issues and candidates, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a letter to the Greene County Board of Elections in July directing the board not to register any such voters, or accept or tabulate their votes.
“We were instructed to refuse any registrations of noncitizen voters,” McCoy said.
While the county elections board is following the state directive, there haven’t been any registrations to refuse, she added.
Yellow Springs’ Clerk of Council Judy Kintner this week said she has not been approached by any noncitizen villagers seeking to register to vote. Under the noncitizen voting process developed by the Village, the clerk maintains local rolls of such voters and forwards registration applications to the county.
According to Village Council President Brian Housh this week, the Greene County Board of Elections has neither accepted or denied the noncitizen registration form developed by the Village. If and when it does, “that would be the trigger for us taking action,” he said — referring to the Village’s intent to pursue legal action against the state over the noncitizen local voting issue.
Housh reiterated what he has said in the past, namely, that Council does not intend to spend taxpayer money on such an action. Instead, the Village would fund any potential lawsuit through a combination of pro bono legal services and community donations, he said. And Housh restated Council’s commitment to the issue.
“We feel strongly we need to support what the voters indicated,” he said.