Not all islanders like deputies stationed at polls

KELLEYS ISLAND Erie County's custom of sending deputies to Kelleys Island on Election Day doesn't please some island resident
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

 

KELLEYS ISLAND

Erie County's custom of sending deputies to Kelleys Island on Election Day doesn't please some island residents, who say their peaceful island doesn't need armed guards.

Election officials retort that the island is a "hotbed" of controversy and said the deputies allow poll workers to feel safe.

Carol Nelson-Burns, a retired professor who lives on the island, said she doesn't like seeing men with guns at the school while people vote.

"It's intimidating as a voter and as a resident of Kelleys Island," she said. "What violence do we have on Kelleys Island, especially as related to voting?"

"They're deputy sheriffs, of course," said Debbie McDowell, the election board's director. "They're going to have their guns."

Sheriff Terry Lyons said by law, he's required to make deputies available when election officials ask for them. Lyons said he dispatched two deputies to the island Tuesday. They returned early to the mainland because the lake was rough.

Deputies aren't routinely stationed at other polling places in Erie County, but as a matter of board policy they've been sent to Kelleys Island for years, said Christopher Marinko, chairman of Erie County's election board, and McDowell.

Marinko said the decision was made to station deputies at the polls after disturbances on past Election Days.

"People were coming in with dueling camcorders," Marinko said, and trying to prove people were voting who weren't year-round residents.

He said the board decided "it would be wise for us to ensure the sanctity of the polling place."

If there's a problem on the mainland, deputies can be sent to the location in minutes, McDowell said. If there's a problem on Kelleys Island and no deputies are present, it would take time to send them over by ferry, she said.

Kelleys Island residents have argued for years about who on the island is legally entitled to vote and who isn't. The election board has often been forced to resolve such disputes.

The 2000 census detected a permanent population of 367. The island currently has 394 registered voters.