Already seeking more voters, Penska set to join Butler County elections board

Mariann Penska is set to be the next member of the Butler County Board of Elections.

Now it’s up to the Ohio Secretary of State to formally swear the West Chester Twp. resident in to succeed Kathy Wyenandt, the Democratic board member who resigned on Dec. 18.

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The Democratic Party picked Penska on Dec. 21 to succeed Wyenandt, who also resigned as the party’s Central Committee chair. Penska beat out former board of elections employee Tiffany Harmon for the recommendation.

She told the Journal-News that she's excited to work with not only her Democratic Party counterpart, Frank Cloud, but also her Republican counterparts, Todd Hall and Chris Wunnenberg. Hall and Wunnenberg are the Butler County GOP's executive committee chair and central committee chair, respectively.

“I get to work with the other board members to make sure we have a holistic view to make sure that we can make voting as incredibly easy as we possibly can,” Penska said.

The Democratic Party had 15 days from Wyenandt’s resignation, which was on Dec. 18, to make a recommendation to the Ohio Secretary of State, though there is no timeline for the Secretary of State to make the appointment.

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The 65-year-old Penska finished fourth for one of the two full-term West Chester Twp. trustee seats up for election in November.She grew up in the ’60s, “so I grew up in a real activist time, and I don’t think that really left me.”

“I’m fiscally conservative and socially progressive,” Penska said. “I’m a mix, and I think most people are a mix.”

Butler County Democratic Party Communications Director Brian Hester said the party was “fortunate to have two strong and qualified candidates” seek the seat and said Penska’s legal expertise will be valuable on the board.

“As someone who has volunteered as a lawyer to protect voters’ rights on Election Day, Mariann Penska will be a valuable asset to the Board of Elections’ focus on serving voters and keeping elections convenient and secure,” he said.

Though Penska hopes her role on the elections board will strengthen the Democratic Party, she hopes the board makes “a significant impact on both parties.”

“I think we want all elections to be very fair and non-eventful,” Penska said. “We’d all like to have 100 percent voter turnout … and for elections to be the voice of the people as opposed to the voice of the few.”

She said she’s already going around her home precinct in West Chester Twp. asking residents who do not vote why they don’t and what will it take to get them to vote in future elections.

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