WARREN - The future of a Republican-backed plan to eliminate one quarter of Trumbull County's 208 voting precincts will be determined by the state's top elections official.
Secretary of State Jon Husted's presence in the matter was made necessary Monday when the bi-partisan board split on the proposal Republicans say would save money and balance the size of precincts and one Democrat called it a ''recipe for disaster'' because of the potential pitfalls.
Also, the board eliminated two precincts in Niles, a move needed because of new ward lines there, and eliminated an office position, a cost-saving proposal meant to counter the precinct reduction plan and one opposed by board directors.
Republican board member Ron Knight said his proposal would reduce the number of precincts and make them more equal in size, including lessening numbers in the county's largest 10 precincts, seven of which have more than 1,000 active voters.
Knight said the elimination would save more than $60,000 a year - more than $1,000 a precinct - and make for better elections.
''I'm confident it would improve elections because it's easier to train 600 pollworkers than 850 pollworkers, and you can be a little more selective,'' Knight said.
How they voted
A resolution to reduce the number precincts in Trumbull County
Democrat Mark Alberini, chairman - NO
Democrat Ralph Infante - NO
Republican Kathi Creed - YES
Republican Ron Knight - YES
A resolution to eliminate an office staff position
Alberini - YES
Infante - YES
Creed - NO
Knight - YES
Knight said the average precinct in Trumbull County is 20 percent smaller than the average in Ohio and that the number of active voters among precincts varies widely, some have as few as 400 and others more than 1,000.
Democrat Mark Alberini said he is ''fundamentally'' and ''emphatically'' opposed to the plan, which he called a ''recipe for disaster.''
The proposal would lead to longer voting lines and increased risk of mistakes, Alberini said. In addition, the elimination of precinct committee people hurts the grassroots work of the party.
The average precinct size in Trumbull County is 719 registered voters.
Trumbull County commissioners gave their input on the issue, at the request of Alberini.
Commissioners say in a letter to the board it offers ''no credible analysis'' to support the proposal and the reduction of committee people from each party is ''counterproductive, one-sided and presented with no validation.''
''Since the election process in Trumbull County has been successful in recent elections with no significant problems, due consideration should be given to maintaining the current system to protect each voter's access to each polling location,'' according to the letter signed by all three commissioners; one of whom, Dan Polivka, is the chairman of the county Democrat Party.
The sides have 14 days to prepare and submit their arguments to the secretary of state.
Also, the board eliminated a vacant position in the office held by a Republican, a proposal board member Ralph Infante made to answer precinct elimination.
''I feel this is a better way to try and save money,'' Infante said.
The person who last filled the position earned about $26,000 a year, not including benefits. The position was responsible for helping with absentees and arranging for one-half of Republican pollwokers, said board director Kelly Pallante.
Pallante, who said she was ''totally against'' the position elimination, said the office ran smoothly with 10 workers, five Democrats and five Republicans.
Also, there was a precinct reduction of sorts on Monday. The board had to get rid of two precincts in Niles because of new ward lines drawn by city officials after the latest U.S. Census. Because of the redistricting, one precinct was left with 133 voters and another, 218 voters, so the board merged those people into other precincts and eliminated the old.