Poll workers clash at Falls nursing home

Poll workers from opposing sides in the presidential race apparently clashed in a physical altercation Friday at a Cuyahoga Falls nursing home when one accused the other of improperly marking a ballot.

George Manos, the 75-year-old Republican, told police that Edith Walker, the 73-year-old Democrat, jumped on his back and struck him in the head three to four times with her fists. Manos said two other elections workers had to pull Walker off his back, according to a report filed with Cuyahoga Falls police.

Manos said it happened after he accused Walker of ballot tampering, and he wants to prosecute.

The incident, which occurred about noon at Gardens of Western Reserve nursing home, is being investigated by both the police and the Summit County elections board. The board probe could lead to a closer examination of the other votes with which Walker was involved.

The alleged assault piqued the interest of
Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign — as the voter in question reportedly wanted to vote for McCain but her ballot was initially marked for Sen. Barack Obama.

''This is a troubling report that emphasizes the importance of having a transparent and open process in every voting place in Ohio,'' said Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for McCain's campaign.

The elections board sent two teams of poll workers, each with one Democrat and one Republican, to the nursing home to assist residents who otherwise would be unable to go to the polls. Such early voting is a routine service offered by elections boards to nursing homes.

Board officials said they have received conflicting accounts — and are trying to sort out what happened — as Manos and Walker were attempting to assist a female nursing home resident with her ballot. Until they do, Walker won't be involved with voting.

''Any type of disagreement at a voting center is not appropriate,'' said Tim Gorbach, a Democratic member of the elections board. ''We need to find out exactly what happened and will take action.''

The voter was able to cast a new, correct ballot with her desired choices, according to elections board officials.

Workers finish vote

After the incident, Manos and Walker were asked to return to the elections board and the remaining team of poll workers finished the voting at the nursing home.

Manos, Walker and the two other poll workers gave written accounts to the board.

Walker said in her statement that Manos tried to grab the ballot in question out of her hand. She said he accused her of marking the ballot wrong and she ''apologized to him if I did do it, but he was very mean to me.'' ..............."And she did assault him !"

Manos' written statement is similar to what he told police. He also said Walker initially refused to show him the ballot, then marked it a second time.

Richard Bader, a Republican poll worker at the nursing home, wrote that he forced his way between Walker and Manos and ''she tried to strong-arm me out of the way, but I held my ground.'' Bader said the incident drew a crowd of six to 10 people.

Robert Dengle, a Democratic poll worker who witnessed the incident, wrote that Manos grabbed the ballot out of Walker's hand and she went after him to get it back. When they ultimately reviewed the ballot, he said, it was marked both for Obama and McCain.

New rules suggested

Bryan Williams, the board's deputy director, sent the statements to elections board members Monday, along with suggested new nursing home guidelines for elections board staff. If the board approve the rules, he said, the staff will be retrained before voting resumes at area nursing homes today.

Among the recommendations are that both the Democrat and Republican poll worker review each vote on a ballot as it is marked and that — when reviewing the choices — a poll worker will say them aloud so the voter can hear them.

Brian Daley, a Republican member of the elections board, said he thinks the board should have a hearing on the incident. He said the board may need to examine the other votes Walker was involved with to make sure they were properly marked.

''If it results in looking at the others, so be it,'' he said. ''The facts as they unfold will dictate where we go with it.''