Metcalfe: Commissioners violated code in poll visits
Eagle Staff Writer
June 16, 2014
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is accusing two Butler County commissioners of violating the state election code by entering polling places where they aren’t residents during the May 20 primary. In a letter dated June 5, Metcalfe told District Attorney Richard Goldinger that commissioners Bill McCarrier and Dale Pinkerton violated state law by entering polling places in the 12th Legislative District. Metcalfe, who won the Republican nomination for that district, said state law permits only election officers, such as machine inspectors and watchers, to be inside polling places. “You don’t want voters intimidated,” he said in an interview. Goldinger said he would review the situation. “I just saw it this morning,” he said Tuesday about the letter. Metcalfe said the least he expects to happen as a result of his letter is the commissioners understanding they’re not permitted inside polling places aside from voting in their own precincts. County officials disagree with Metcalfe, who defeated Republican write-in candidate Gordon Marburger in the primary, on the definition of election officers. During the commissioners meeting Monday, McCarrier defended the polling place visits, citing the commissioners’ role as the county board of elections in years they’re not running for re-election. “I am an election officer,” he said. Metcalfe, who is chairman of the House State Government Committee, said McCarrier is not interpreting the law correctly. He pointed to Section 102 of the state election code. Under (c), the county board of elections — the county commissioners in this case — is referred to as “county board.” In (d), the words “election board” refers to the election officers required to conduct primaries and elections in an election district. According to (g. 1), “The words ‘elections officer’ shall include the judge of elections and the majority and minority inspectors elected or appointed by a county board of elections and the clerk or machine inspector appointed by a county board of elections.” Metcalfe stressed county commissioners are not election officers who are permitted inside polling places on election day. McCarrier said he and Pinkerton were thanking poll workers for their service. Pinkerton agreed. “We did go to thank poll workers,” he said at the meeting. Commissioner Jim Eckstein, who initially brought up the letter, expressed disbelief his colleagues were not campaigning for Marburger. “Isn’t that sweet?” Eckstein said. “If people believe that, people believe in the tooth fairy.” County solicitor Mike English said there would be no legal issue with the commissioners stepping inside a polling place to thank workers. “I don’t think that’s an election code violation,” English said in an interview. Shari Brewer, director of the county elections bureau, also was unaware of any violation. “To the best of my knowledge,” she said. Metcalfe said county officials don’t understand election code provisions. “There is not a debate,” he said. McCarrier said in an interview that the polling sites visited, including those in Penn Township, were selected because it was their time in a rotation for commissioners’ election day stops. McCarrier and Pinkerton went to sites in the northern half of the county in previous elections. They’re due to stop in the southeast precincts in November. Metcalfe said the commissioners’ purpose for entering the polling places is moot — the issue is they are not permitted to be there. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.