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50 ways to reform Ohio elections

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50 ways to reform Ohio elections
December 4, 2007

EDITORIAL: The Columbus Free Press and freepress.org editorial board endorses the following reforms to ensure safe, secure and democratic elections in Ohio in 2008 and beyond.

1. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform voting procedures in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

2. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform election reporting procedures in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

3. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform election terminology in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

4. The Secretary of State shall allow the party’s county central committees to remove party appointments to the county’s Boards of Elections.

5. The Secretary of State shall establish standards for well-trained and fully informed pollworkers familiar with the voting laws and regulations of the state of Ohio.

6. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for voter registration processing in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.
    (a) The process of registering to vote shall be universally fair, accessible and transparent.
    (b) The system of voter registration shall automatically register Ohio citizens at the age of 18. An opt-out provision shall be included.
    (c) Each Ohio voter shall be assigned a unique identifying number developed specifically for voting purposes and the state shall not rely for voting purposes on Social Security, driver’s license or any other number developed for other purposes.
    (d) The voter registration process shall include acceptable registration forms including weight, size and quality of paper.
    (e) The voter registration process shall empower county Boards of Elections and their designated registrars to issue uniform voter ID cards with photos.
    (f) The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure for correcting a voter registration form in a timely manner.
    (g) The Secretary of State shall implement a statewide voter registration database as required by HAVA and shall make that list available to the public in continuous updated electronic format.
    (h) The Secretary of State shall direct that no person shall alter the electronic signature of a registered Ohio voter.
    (i) The secretary shall establish statewide uniform procedures for the standards used in accepting voter signatures in electronic pollbooks.
    (j) The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide standard regarding timely and legitimate voter registration challenges.
7. The Secretary of State shall promote the rights of college students to vote at their chosen legal residence whether it is at their college residence or their permanent home address.
    (a) Students shall have the right to register at their college campus address if they intend to reside in that community while enrolled in the college.
    (b) Students shall be allowed to use their college ID cards as voter identification.
    (c) Colleges may be allowed to issue voting registration status on their college ID cards.
8. The Secretary of State shall ask the Attorney General of Ohio for a formal opinion on the constitutionality of each and every aspect of Ohio’s current voter ID requirements.
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9. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for voter registration receipts in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws which function as proof on Election Day that the voter may cast a ballot in Ohio.

10. All county Boards of Elections shall notify all newly registered or re-registered voters within 15 business days that their application for registration has been either accepted or rejected.

11. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for matching voter registration applications to any other government databases for acceptance or rejection and shall clearly define such standards in a directive promulgated and publicly available.

12. The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure to avoid human error in databases. The standard shall be based on a "Substantial Match" defined as any transposed letters, slight variation in name, the absence of a suffix such as Jr. or Sr., misspelled addresses, or other common database errors. No voter registration application shall be rejected based on common database errors. A failed match shall produce only the single consequence expressly identified in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA): that a citizen registering by mail and for the first time in a given jurisdiction is subject to an identification requirement.

13. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform security procedures or approve each county’s Board of Elections security procedures for all voting machines and technology in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.
    (a) The Secretary of State’s office and all county Boards of Elections shall make public a list of all private technicians including all independent contractors and subcontractors employed for election purposes.
    (b) The Secretary of State’s office and all county Boards of Elections shall require a technical and criminal background check for all private technicians involved in hardware and software technical support for election purposes.
    (c) County Boards of Elections shall notify the Secretary of State’s office of any and all contact by private voting machine technicians regarding their access to the hardware and/or software of any voting machines during the election cycle, including remote access.
    (d) The Secretary of State shall adopt uniform procedures for the use and storage of all ballots and pollbooks.
    (e) The Secretary of State shall adopt uniform procedures for the use and storage of all electronic storage hardware including all memory and access cards.
    (f) County Boards of Elections shall make public all contracts relating to election services.
    (g) County boards of election officials shall make public all election-related public records in compliance with Ohio law. Any election official failing to comply shall be immediately suspended by the Secretary of State pending a hearing in accordance with Ohio law.
    (h) All voting Board of Elections members and employees shall be protected as whistleblowers as established by a directive from the Secretary of State which shall encourage them to report any possible violations of elections law they have witnessed.
    (i) The Secretary of State shall adopt uniform procedures for testing all voting machines, computer tabulators and tabulating machines for both reliability and security.
    (j) The Secretary of State shall make public all government agencies, individuals and corporations that have unrestricted access to the Secretary of State office’s databases and county Board of Elections databases.
    (k) The Secretary of State and county Boards of Elections shall also disclose any real time remote access and communication between any corporation, individual, or government agency during the election cycle and voting process.
14. The Secretary of State shall prohibit any county Board of Elections to contract with private vendors to maintain voter registration lists, to count the vote or to maintain custody of vote totals or public election records for profit.
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15. The Secretary of State shall establish that all voting machine software codes shall be held in a confidential trust by the state and county Boards of Elections.

16. The Secretary of State shall establish a public certification and testing process of all voting machines.

17. The Secretary of State shall require that any electronically transferred information from coordinating state agencies to the database administrator shall utilize a secure encryption protocol.

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