WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County Democratic Chairman Dan Polivka said he is not backing down and will defend the party’s decision to hold secret balloting when electing a successor to fill the seat of late Trumbull County Commissioner Paul Heltzel.
Polivka made the statements Tuesday during a press conference in Warren. The Trumbull County Democratic Party elected Mauro Cantalamessa on Saturday to fill Heltzel’s seat until a commissioner is elected in November.
Ohio State Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern said the Trumbull County Democratic Party should adhere to state and national by-laws and abolish secret ballots.
“I vehemently disagree because it eradicates one of our most basic rights, the right to vote, and the right to your privacy. The insistence on denying Democrats a secret ballot is a ploy to hold precinct committee members captive to the whims of the chair and party leadership. And under my leadership, I will not have it,”Polivka said.
Polivka said the majority of the committee members wanted a secret ballot and that he is following the local party by-laws.
Precinct committee member Tony Latell said there is a reason the party favors the secret vote.
“They were intimidated back then. There is a lot of stories, I go back and a lot of precinct committee members go back to those days,” Latell said.
Polivka called Redfern’s sanctions against him and the county Democratic party intimidation tactics.
“There is a process outlined by the ODP and DNC bylaws that Mr. Redfern could have followed but chose to ignore, which makes his criticism of our Trumbull County Party absolutely disingenuous,” Polivka said. “Mr. Redfern has violated due process, which is the guarantee of notice and hearing before imposition of penalties. This is America Mr. Chairman!”
Redfern said Polivka’s actions are reckless and risking a Democratic seat if certification is not approved at the local level.
“My concern is that a Republican would challenge this vote sometime before Aug. 10 and the ballot is closed off,” Redfern said.
He said there are two options: Petition the DNC to change its rules or Polivka can resign if he cannot enforce them. The executive committee of the state party could take action against Polivka at a meeting in late August or early September.
Redfern said he expects the local party to rewrite their constitution to be in compliance with the DNC. He said if they don’t, he will take action to remove Polivka from his post.