Orrville election has an unusual structure

Published 10:27 pm Saturday, August 4, 2012

ORRVILLE — The well-known phrase “vote early, vote often” is used to playfully decry the act of campaign fraud, where individuals figure out ways to cast more than one vote.

The principle of “one man, one vote” is often described as being at the core of a representative democracy, but in Orrville, it may not completely accurate.

For a town that rarely has competitive municipal elections, this year not only brings about races for mayor and town council, it also brings about the need to fully explain to residents they get more than one vote.

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In the election for town council, seven residents qualified for five council spots. Since qualifying ended on July 17, one candidate has pulled out, leaving six to run for five spots.

Since the town — which is roughly one square mile — elects their council members in an at-large election, the five candidates with the most votes will be elected to the council.

In an effort to encourage minority representation on the council, a civil lawsuit was filed in the mid-1980s requiring the town — and more than 20 other small towns — to change their election policies, giving multiple votes to their residents.

In the case of Orrville, registered voters have just one vote to cast in a mayoral race and a total of two votes to cast in the council race. Voters can split their two votes between two candidates, or give one candidate both votes.

“It really is hard to explain to someone they have two votes. It goes against pretty much everything we’ve been told,” Orrville Mayor Gene McHugh, who for the first time in more than two decades will face an opponent. Louvenia Diane Lumpkin will face McHugh on Aug. 28.

According to McHugh, since the lawsuit was filed, the town has only had one election where more than five candidates qualified for the election, and this marks the first time that a minority candidate has been among the qualified candidates.

The six competing for the five spots include: Yvonne Roberts, Rodney Ellis, Herman Majors, Nell Frasier, Jewell Williamson and Dorothy Adcox.

McHugh said voters who come to vote on Aug. 28, some of whom may be voting in a municipal election for the very first time, will be provided instructions on how to cast their ballot, but is expecting some confusion.

“There will be some who won’t understand and I don’t blame them,” McHugh said. “This is just something we deal with. I’d love to change it, but to fight the lawsuit would be far too expensive.”

McHugh said he and other town leaders considered asking town attorneys to challenge the lawsuit, but just moved on.

“We didn’t even take it to them to try to fight it,” McHugh said. “We don’t face this situation very often and it would be far too expensive to even try to fight it.”