The first time Ruth Leuthold applied for a part-time job at the Crawford County Electoral Board office, she was not given the job.
“Dad was a member of the Central Committee at the time and he came home and said, ‘They said at the meeting that they were looking for a part-time clerk at the election office,'” Leuthold recalled. early this month.
At the time, Leuthold’s eldest daughter was two years away from going to college and “it was time for me to get back to work”.
Leuthold applied, but the job went to Barb Blackford – who stepped down a few months later to take a position on the board. When the position reopened, Leuthold got the part-time job, earning $ 4.40 an hour. It was in 1990.
More than 30 years later, Leuthold, the longtime director of the electoral council, is retiring. His last day is Thursday.
When she joined the council staff, Leuthold was already familiar with the electoral system – her grandfather, father, and then her husband had all been members of the county central committee over the years, and her mother was a polling officer.
“So I always grew up knowing something about the process and loving it,” she said.
When Joan Dilley retired in 1999, Leuthold became the director of the board.
Lots of changes over the years
Leuthold has gone through many changes over the past 30+ years. During this time, the office went through three voting systems.
When she was hired, the electoral board used a punch card system. Absentee ballots were sent along with a foam backing card and a small stylus.
The next system, AccuVote, was electronic, with a touchscreen. Eventually, a verified paper audit trail was added, but the printers it used caused problems for election workers.
“They were an add-on, and they were falling out – and people didn’t even realize they had this,” Leuthold recalls. “They could have opened that little window and checked their votes, but they didn’t always remember it was there.
“But now, with the new card, what I like is that it prints your actual vote on it; it comes back to you. You can see it and see that everything is okay before you scan it. “
The ExpressVote system, which the county launched in November 2019, allows voters to mark their ballots using a touchscreen system, similar to previous machines in the county. Once each ballot is marked, it must be inserted into a tabulator-digitizer to be counted.
Deputy director fought breast cancer
Putting this system in place was part of the most stressful time of Leuthold’s tenure, she said.
Immediately after the delivery of the new system in early June 2019, the deputy director of the electoral board, Kim Rudd, was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, or advanced breast cancer.
“So I had this new equipment to install without it. But we had a really good staff, and everyone came together and we did,” Leuthold said.
In addition to the director and the deputy director, the permanent staff of the council includes three clerks.
“But also during that time, we had a security directive from the secretary of state,” she said. “It was quite extensive … we had to hire a consultant to help us, and we had to install new hardware and software on all of our equipment, an improved firewall, and register with different government services, so now our network traffic is being monitored. So it was quite important too. And then to prepare for 2020. “
Rudd – who will take over as director of the board on January 1 – returned to work just in time for the November 2019 general election.
“Most stressful day:” March 16, 2020
Then came 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The most stressful day was March 16, the day before the primary elections,” Leuthold said. “The day before the election is always stressful because we still have people trying to vote here, and we are trying to transport all of our equipment to our polling stations and get everything set up – lots of last minute things to do.
“So that day we had all the equipment delivered and it was set up. And we heard on the news that the governor canceled the primary elections, so we quickly call all of our rovers and say,” Take your broken down gear. ‘”
Throughout the day, they responded to calls from election officials who did not want to work the next day because of the pandemic.
“Then we get a call from the secretary of state saying he’s appealing, so we call our rovers and they put the equipment back in place,” she laughed. “And again, we think it’s done, and we ask them to take them apart and then put them back in. It wasn’t really until 11:30 pm that night that we knew that for sure. , the equipment was, I think, most of the time put back in. And then the next day they went to take it apart.
“At 5:30 am that morning, election morning, I went to every polling station and put up a sign, in case there were any election officers we weren’t in contact with. contact, or voters who did not know the polling stations were closed. So it was the most stressful day.
State officials have decided to give voters until April 28, 2020 to send out the postal ballots.
“While other places were closed and the courthouse was closed for two weeks, we were here,” Leuthold said. “We never missed a day because now we had to send ballots to voters.”
For council employees, the March 17 primary was not over until mid-May, when they had the official count.
“This one was unforgettable,” said Leuthold.
It has also been an eventful year – several candidates have dropped out, others have had their petitions rejected. Then a race for the town hall of Galion ended in a tie.
“We’ve had several recounts over the years, but only twice have we had a tie, and one of them has come this year,” she said. “And that’s where you have to toss, pick a winner. So they tossed a coin.”
Rudd had a silver dollar in his wallet so it was used for the raffle. A recount later confirmed the tie, so the result of the toss is valid, she explained.
“This year has not been as bad as last year,” she said. “An easier ending, maybe.”
“It was a privilege”
Having good staff made any challenges easier, she said.
“We have a great time together,” said Leuthold. “We have a great staff and we get along well, so we can joke around during our stressful times, and we can complain to each other about the new election laws and continue to overcome them.”
So what’s next after retirement?
“Everyone asks me, ‘What are your plans? And I have nothing specific, “she said.” Right now we are free if the grandchildren have something in school that we want to go to, we can make it happen because they are in the Akron area and the Cleveland area. So we can’t always go to everything. “
She could have retired several years ago, but wanted to participate in the commissioning of the new voting equipment. “And then the presidential election came, so I thought I should probably stay for that.”
But now is the time.
“You have to enjoy the process to stay here this long,” said Leuthold. “Yes, there have been stressful times, but just watching the process work has been very enjoyable. It has been a privilege to work for the citizens of our riding, and I hope they feel that our election were safe, fair and secure. “