Following a heated exchange in which one member accused another of flip-flopping on the vote needed for passage, the Allen County Board of Commissioners Friday defeated a proposal that would have abolished the county's Board of Voter Registration.
Although Commissioners Nelson Peters and Therese Brown voted for the ordinance, which as authorized by the General Assembly two years ago would have placed registration under the County Clerk, at least temporarily, Linda Bloom voted no. And with a unanimous vote necessary for passage, that was enough to maintain the status quo.
“If it ain't broke, don't fix it,” Bloom said, pleasing some in the audience who had come to oppose the proposal, fearing it might weaken voting rights.
“I'm not surprised by your flip-flop, but I am extremely disappointed,” responded Peters, who had suggested that placing registration under the Election Board could improve efficiency and ease confusion by putting all election-related functions in a single office. Had the registration been transferred to the clerk, the Election Board would have had to vote unanimously to assume the duties.
Although Bloom conceded communication between the election and registration offices could be improved, she said more time should be allowed.
“We've been discussing this for 18 months. How much longer should we wait?” Brown asked.
“I'm confused,” Peters said, addressing Bloom. “If it 'ain't broke,' how can it be made better?”
“The bar is pretty low right now. We want to raise it,” Brown said.
“If they can't work things out, we can have a vote later. And we won't need another 18 months,” Bloom said. All three commissioners are Republican.
Although Peters and Brown stressed the change would not have affected the public's ability to register or vote, and would have assured continued bipartisan oversight of registration under the Election Board, not everyone was convinced.
“Let us not falter by abolishing a practice which sustains such an inherited right or privilege (as voting),” Democratic Wayne Township Trustee Rick Stevenson said in a statement.