A week ago Monday, 2/4, Secretary of State Brunner had SB286 introduced in the Ohio Senate. It was quickly and rather quietly passed two days later, on 2/6. SB286 contains critical changes to election procedures, based on the Secretary's still non-publicly analyzed nor advised December recommendations. Narrowly sourced and hastily written, SB286 is similarly being driven through the Ohio House this week, continuing to thwart sufficient fact-finding about the recommendations' and bill's systemic election impacts, and to negate sufficient weighing of their real election risks, before it becomes law.
Last week, with at most one day, hard to find public notice, the bill went through two Committee hearings and was passed on Wednesday afternoon. The few advocates who heard, quickly put together and sent pointed objections, and some quickly went to Tuesday's hearing, and were able to get a few needed amendments for language clarifications. Those amendments, though critical, are minor compared to what's needed to make this legislation whole and serve the cause of fair elections in Ohio.
Even the four members of Cuyahoga's Election Board, the county toward which SB286's most dramatic changes are uniquely intended, expressed surprise at last Thursday's meeting. They said they had not seen the bill, and only two had heard about its Senate process, but only after it was passed the day before.
Stating deserved concern with (or support for) SB286 cannot be made or portrayed as a partisan issue, though most objections to SoS recommendations have been characterized as Republican ploys.
This is a factual; fair, transparent election issue.
I am both a long-time registered Democrat and non-partisan election integrity advocate. I campaigned for Secretary of State Brunner before her election, believing that in contrast to the then-current administration, Ohio's election process would finally be able to get fair, thoughtful consideration from the electorate and election integrity advocates. I, thus, find both this current process and the proposed bill alarming. Neither Democrats nor Republicans can thoughtlessly follow party lines when weighing and deciding risks and preventions for Ohio's elections.
My foundational concerns with SB286 are bulleted in a Position Paper sent to the Ohio House Committee today. I attach it here.
• SB286’s support for centrally counting paper ballots in only two counties for only one election, while otherwise acknowledging the risks of central count by “generally prohibiting” the practice in all other 86 other counties, and in all other elections than the March 4 primary, mandates unequal protection under the law from central count risks, particularly for Cuyahoga voters.
• Central counting of ballots leaves no record of votes totals at the precincts, thus promotes non-provable tabulation security and accuracy, prevents valid auditability and election transparency.
• Midday pickup of ballots for only Cuyahoga, further significantly reduces the already compromised ballot security and transparency of central count, introduces unnecessary confusion, extra resources and costs, and poll worker distraction.
• Mid-day pick-up is not needed to accomplish reasonable timing for results reporting, according to to ES&S performance promises before recent scanner and tabulator acquisition. Completion time according to those quotes and turn-out estimates, is estimated at 12-1am, even adding hours for additional adminstration time.
• Cuyahoga’s Election Board did not vote for central count, as it is mandated in this legislation to "allow" central counting and midday pick-up. The CCBOE's vote was brought by the Secretary of State, which resulted in a tie that was broken by the Secretary of State. Nor was the CCBOE given equipment alternatives, to be able choose new, properly-operable and secure equipment to enact the risky practice; leasing additional pre-designated equipment, for which county taxpayers are again paying; to be hastily installed and implemented in less than 2 months.
(Van Wert, the only other county affected, chose to get this central count equipment with a promise of Sate reimbursement, and has freely chosen not to engage in midday pick-up.)
• Unnecessary election problems which are likely to arise from too hastily decided and made changes for Cuyahoga's March '04 primary, can sway statewide results, as it alone constitutes approximately 11% of Ohio's votes.
• SB286 leaves highly detailed, interelated systemic needs to be decided later, and only by the SoS instead of simultaneously considering and legislating such critical security factors as observable, auditable, valid "chain of custody" of ballots and other data,
For all 88 counties, just using paper ballots instead of DRE's does not make an election any more safe and secure, if the entire system of how the ballots are handled is not also carefully secured and made publicly transparent and validly auditable; and the electronic machinery on which ballots are scanned is not more properly operable and free from potential for accidental or intentional manipulation of results.
I hope you will join me in your own opposition to this process of whisking this proposed legislation, and possibly future, non-thoroughly nor well-advised December '07 SoS recommendations, into Ohio law; and with your own concerns about SB286.
The amended Senate-passed bill, SB286 can be found here: http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=127_SB_286
This week's House State Government and Elections Committee hearing schedule on Wedneday, 2/13 and Thursday 2/14, currently is: Wed, Feb 13, 1:00 p.m., Room 122; Thurs, Feb 14, 9:30 a.m., Rm 122,
Emails for the State Government and Elections Committee Chair and Ranking Minority Leader are:
Representative David T. Daniels; Chair, State Government and Elections Committee firstname.lastname@example.org