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April 6, 2007

Can you feel the anger and relief in Ohio? Hundreds and thousands are still paying attention since the 04 election.  That Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner needs to take over an entire Board of Elections – and the biggest one in the state with a million registered voters – responds to our anger.  This is responsive government.  Cuyahoga County required it.

Blackwell did whatever he wanted to do – his spine was not calcium-challenged.  He kept his eyes on the prize and grabbed it for his warlord. He redefined “random” and restricted the allowance of “provisional” votes.  He sold 59 counties machines from a company in which he held stock. (Ananda, 2006) 

“The granting of absolute amnesty is at one end of the spectrum.  In some cases, the unrestricted pardon is the result of the self-amnesty that the outgoing elite unilaterally award themselves.”  (Huyse, 2006) 

I’m not happy he got away with it and the unelected remain after 6 years. I’m not happy Brunner’s a machine fan, and won’t lead the hand counted paper ballot movement.  But after more than two years of solid defeats here, firing the entire Cuyahoga Board of Elections is a stunning display of official accountability.

We don’t get to see much of that here in Ohio. Our former Gov was convicted of some ethics violation that cost him $2,000 and a bit of public embarrassment, but not enough to cost him his job. 

Yes, Lucas County’s Bob Ney went to prison – but he left his HAVA law behind.  Dems and Repubs alike have embraced the neocon ideology, ergo everyone’s fascination with these high tech voting systems – to heck with transparency.  Corporate control is fine by them; it’s how they get in office, anyway. 

If Brunner can replace the Cuyahoga Board with competent advocates of democracy, surely let’s all support her. She’s got plenty of other counties to deal with after this one.  Many counties in Ohio rigged the 04 recount by not pulling a random sample.  (No matter how your boss defines “random,” the law says “random.”)  

Yes, the State seizing control should make us sit up and pay attention – citizen oversight and election process transparency is especially vital in a transition stage.  I’m still reading the pros and cons of local election vs. State control (and still favor bottom-up), but Cuyahoga’s violations were stunning. 

They lost not only hundreds of memory cards during the May primary, but also 29 voting machines! (Zetter, 2006)  

Surely, this called for drastic action.  Surely, bloggers are watching Brunner closely.  Background details can be traced in this excellent blog:http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/story/2007/3/30/204010/155 

Can Brunner do more?  Yes.  And she should.  But let’s see how she handles the biggest county in the state.  If she can restore confidence in Northeast Ohio, can you imagine the public relations boon to the rest of the state, and the nation? 

“Election managers currently face the formidable challenge of ensuring that stakeholders have trust in the electoral process and perceive electoral administrations as credible institutions,” wrote Brigalia Bam, Chair of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa and Member of the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance. (Bam, 2006) 

Having confidence in electronic voting systems may be oxymoronic, but let us see if election officials can even achieve the appearance of maintaining chain of custody.  

Not only was Cuyahoga unable to run a legal recount of the 04 election, but it completely collapsed when running a fair election in May 2006.  Brunner’s decision to replace the Board is timely and necessary.  Let’s hope she chooses men and women serious about administering elections in a competent, transparent and honest manner.  

References: 

Ananda, Rady. “Election Technology by County,” map of data provided by the Ohio Secretary of State, 2006, posted at http://tinyurl.com/oryay.

Bam, Brigalia. Foreword. “Electoral Management Design,” by Wall, Alan, S. Staino, J. Rukambe, A.Ellis, A. Ayoub and C. Dundas, Geneva: International IDEA, 2006.  Huyse, Luc. “Transitional Justice” in “Democracy and Deep-Rooted Conflict,” Geneva: International IDEA, 2006. p. 142, PDF.) 

Zetter, Kim. “Ohio Election Portends Trouble,” Wired.com, Oct 31, 2006.


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