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Brunner's recommendations long on money, short on transparency

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Secretary Brunner enjoyed a great coup at her press conference on 14 December when she revealed her damning Project Everest findings. For a politician to get press like that in front of a 30 foot Christmas tree is a slam dunk. Good on her.

Nevertheless, one could conjecture that absolutely nothing will change in Ohio for the primaries. Her recommendations will not be implemented because there isn't the cash, nor the time now, to put her recommendations into place for '08. We will keep using the DRE's, certainly in every other county save Cuyahoga perhaps. Her recommendation may not be enough to solve the great challenges that lay ahead for Ohio voters in '08. If the past is any indication, the primaries are guaranteed to be a mess when once again we expect to be told by elections officials that everything went "just fine", "just trust is" and "move along. There is nothing to see here." However, as Bev Harris of Black Box Voting pointed out recently, appeals of "just trust us" don't wash anymore with voters. This is not about "just trust us." This is "prove our vote count is correct beyond a doubt by implementing the proper checks and balances." Harris is spot on. We the people are entitled to full transparency in our elections and we are just not there. We are angry and we are still waiting for genuine election integrity by means of genuine transparency.

Secretary Brunner made it clear that in-precinct vote tabulation audits using optical scanners against hand-counts are gone. She, in doing so, has eliminated the most critical opportunity to achieve election transparency. Her move towards strict central tabulation effectively shuts down transparency at the precinct level. Secretary Brunner, we need MORE transparency in the precinct, not LESS. But you know that. No, Secretary Brunner, We the People would demand a mandatory, truly random, ten percent in-precinct hand count audit against the optical scanners on election night. We the people will not let another elections official, politician or bogus legislation, eliminate every avenue to transparency that was once available to us. A real paper ballot provides us that one chance to make sure the vote count is right on election night and you understand this. We will achieve this through a process called citizen oversight.  So let's not make it a paper trail. Let's make it a paper ballot. Give us that in our precincts.

I am dreading the March primary. Ohio doesn't have the money for the Secretary's recommendations to shift to optical scanners and paper ballots for '08. Where will we ever find the money? Even if we did have the money, are we to understand her recommendation would be to continue rewarding the vendors— the vendors who sold taxpaying voters a bill of goods in the first place and whose only punishment will be?.... drum roll please...  A BRAND NEW CONTRACT for the manufacture of 2 billion-dollars-worth of NEW ELECTRONIC Voting machines!? Oh, that again. I can see it now just as clearly as a train coming down the track and guess who is tied to the tracks? The voters are. The taxpayers are. That is just not going to wash with us anymore. We are tired of spending billions for questionable elections. We want verifiable election results. Anything less than total transparency is unacceptable. We want our money back so we get get back on track—that is, on the train, not the tracks. Methinks it is not only time for real transparency but that it is time for some hefty lawsuits filed against the vendors for the biggest democracy-killing taxpayer rip-off in history. Vendors shouldn't be rewarded, they should be decertified, then they should be sued.

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If we ever do get our money back, which I doubt, we should spend it on hiring randomly selected independent auditors to conduct in-precinct random 10% hand-count audits against the optical scanners counting our precious, real paper ballots. Now THAT would prevent the cheaters from cheating. Yes.  It would offer genuine checks and balances by the people, for the people offered the freedom to verify their own election results. That's real transparency. Remember, it's not about "just trust us" anymore. Accustomed to disappointment once again though, voters get coal for Christmas. We have been duly informed that in-precinct audits are off the table by Secretary Brunner.

Though some of Brunner's recommendations on the surface appear to be actually quite good, like the 12-day window voters would be given to cast their ballot in "Super-precinct polling stations", the recommendations do nothing to address  the urgent need for real transparency. Consider for example, what might happen if some unscrupulous individual counted super-precinct ballots early and was able to use the early results like an exit poll that could be used to fine-tune a rig? The possibilities for fraud are stunning. For another example, weak links in the chain of custody exist for the transport of millions of paper ballots to an ill-conceived "Central Tabulation" point in each county. Without polling station audits with citizen oversight, we still won't know if our vote truly counted.

Transparency is the key word in verifiable elections and we still have none of it. What Secretary Brunner has proposed guarantees voters will have solved some old problems but will gain an entire boatload of new ones—more than we had during the Office of Secretary of State under Blackwell. If anything, voters fear we will feel the noose again in '08 amidst the chaos and desperation of voters who fear their vote, and perhaps their voter registration as well, will be manipulated again. The election of '08 may well become just another fake election that "went just fine." Prove me wrong, Oh please, prove me wrong. In the meantime, can we get our money back?


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Victoria Parks is a life-long resident of Ohio; B.S. Broadcast Journalism from Kent State University; award-winning songwriter and performer; indie-producer; Penwoman; democracy activist; commentator; satirist; graphic artist. Parks has been (more...)

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