Supreme Court doesn’t repair damage to Brunner’s reputation

Though Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner won her appeal to the United States Supreme Court and ended the legal challenges to her handling of the current election process already underway, she’s mistaken if she thinks that she can pat herself on the back and feel that the damage she’s done to her own reputation has been repaired.

Though one line of legal questioning has been resolved, the controversy has not been erased, and confidence in Ohio’s election systems is far from being secured.  The Secretary of State could have been much more proactive, in prior months, in implementing sufficient checks and balances to erase all doubts about the integrity of the vote, but instead she permitted too many opportunities for gaming the system by those who don’t have scruples.

I expect she’ll face spirited opposition in 2010, should she decide to seek re-election.

I didn’t vote for Brunner in 2006, and I believe the events that have unfolded since her election have only caused me to feel vindicated that I voted correctly in the SoS race.

AP writer masquerades vote fraud editorial as news

As I was scanning through the headlines of the Lorain Morning Journal, there was one in particular that caught my eye: “Ohio GOP plays voter fraud card.”  I took a closer look, because such a headline belongs on an Op/Ed page.  The MJ could have chosen the wording of the headline and not realized the bias contained within it, so I checked the AP article itself, to see if it was straight news or if it was an editorial.  Alas, Stephen Majors, an Associated Press writer is passing this off as a news story.  It ought to be an editorial.  I’d already offered the counterpoint to the AP writer’s views here on my blog.  Furthermore, the MJ ought to know it’s an editorial based on election stories it has run in the past.

Let’s turn back the clock to 2004, when Ken Blackwell was Secretary of State instead of Jennifer Brunner.  As I mentioned in a blog entry about Oberlin College students taking advantage of early voting, I lived in Oberlin in 2004.  I had to wait for two-and-a-half hours to cast a ballot.  I was also a candidate for office that year (but I lost by a wide margin).  Really heavy turnout in the cities of Lorain County resulted in a Democrat sweep of county offices, not just a majority vote in favor of John Kerry:

High numbers of Oberlin College voters contributed to Republican losses on Tuesday, according to Robert Rousseau, chairman of the Lorain County Republican Party.

”It had a tremendous effect on the election,” Rousseau said. ”All these students went in there and they voted the entire ticket. This was the highest turnout ever in Oberlin and 99 percent of them were Democrats.”

In the run-up to those elections, there had been question marks about problematic voter registrations, and the MJ wrote about them.  Oberlin, itself, raised eyebrows at the number of voters registered compared to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.

As a person who has collected campaign petition signatures in Oberlin, and a person who had regular interactions with others in the community while a resident there, let me add my own two cents on the very real potential for voter fraud.

  • Whenever I circulate petitions, I use a “walklist” that I obtain from the county’s Board of Elections that lists registered voters and their addresses.  This helps me to make sure that I am collecting valid signatures.  One can obtain walklists that show a voter’s party affiliation according to what ballot they requested the most recent time they voted in a primary.  Also, one can obtain lists that show whether voters voted in the most recent election, or if the voter hasn’t cast a ballot in four years and are on the verge of being purged from the list.  I can tell you for certain that there are some addresses on those walklists that do not exist.  The house number given matches no house number on the entire street.  How do such individuals remain on the voter rolls without getting purged?
  • Also, some addresses have shown two families registered to vote at an address, but only one family actually residing there.  How did the family not living there gain access to the ballot box?
  • A large number of Oberlin College residents are from out-of-state.  While there may be sufficient checks and balances to prevent someone from voting in multiple locations within Ohio, there aren’t sufficient checks and balances to prevent someone from voting in Ohio at their college address and then voting absentee by mail via an out-of-state permanent address.
  • Those canvassing to increase voter registration came to our door at least 6 times while I was at home.  Some of them even knocked at both the front door and then the back door to make sure they weren’t two separate residences.  Friends down the street who owned an adjacent house that they rented out to foreign students enrolled at Oberlin told us that multiple attempts were made to register the tenants even though the tenants told the canvassers they were Japanese citizens, not U.S. citizens.  Several of the students had a driver’s license, so, what if the zealous canvassers registered a few foreigners?  Are the checks and balances sufficient enough to prevent foreign nationals from voting when they have a valid address and can produce a driver’s license for ID?

County Boards of Elections are not allocated sufficient manpower to take these walklists and audit them by going door to door.  When I find discrepancies on walklists during petition drives, I don’t know of anything I can do, as a lay person, to red-flag the registration for further investigation by authorities.  Clearly, when voter registration exceeds population, somebody needs to be purged from the voter rolls.  Also, while a person has to attest that they are a citizen on a registration form, I don’t know what checks and balances are in place for verification.  With elections procedures set forth on a state-by-state basis instead of a national basis, I don’t know what checks and balances are in place to disallow persons from voting in more than one state if they have a temporary address that differs from a permanent address, let alone prevent “homeless” persons from being bused in from another state.

The Associated Press writer has this to say:

But do the arguments come with supporting evidence that voter fraud is prominent, or that the current election system isn’t catching it when it does happen? No.

Are we, as lay persons, even permitted to gather supporting evidence?  If so, I wouldn’t mind using Oberlin as a case study to reveal whether the system is being gamed or not.  I don’t think Brunner wants us to gather supporting evidence, as her spokespersons merely state that checks and balances are in place without offering explanation as to what those checks and balances are, as she refuses to answer media questions herself, and as she hasn’t permitted election observers during the early voting period.

Brunner hurt by ACORN

Even before this general election season, I’d already thought the case against Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner was strong.

With the election upon us, the case grows stronger.

Brunner’s reputation isn’t really being threatened by Ohio Republicans, though.  As anyone knows, the Republican brand in Ohio has been damaged, so even though a number of GOP voices have been outspoken against Brunner, those dissenting voices haven’t had much sway over Ohio’s electorate.

The Ohio electorate is taking another look at Brunner, however, and not necessarily in a positive light.  ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is under investigation in eight states for potential voter registration fraud, and is receiving national attention on all the news networks.  The MSM is investigating what checks and balances are in place to preserve the integrity of elections, and when the scrutiny turns to Ohio and Brunner, there are question marks.

The coverage of ACORN’s excesses is what has the electorate of Ohio scratching their heads about Brunner.  So far, Brunner’s strategy has been to shoot the messengers.  I don’t think that strategy will pay off when 2010 arrives.

Jennifer Brunner: A hand in the cookie jar?

Prior to the 2004 Presidential elections, the Democrat Party lined up an army of lawyers to be elections observers in full expectation that the elections would be “stolen.” They provided 3 reasons for their expectations:

  1. There was a pervasive feeling among Democrats that the 2000 Presidential election was stolen in favor of Republican George W. Bush, to the detriment of Democrat Al Gore, in the state of Florida. Polling in 2004 indicated a tight Presidential race in Ohio, thus pundits, in advance of the election, were referring to Ohio as being the “Florida of 2004.”
  2. Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was a key player in the Bush campaign in Ohio. Democrats claimed that it was a conflict of interest for the Secretary of State to oversee elections in which he was so prominently involved in the Bush campaign. Some were suggesting that elections oversight needed to be handled by a non-partisan panel of appointees, and that the Ohio Constitution should be amended accordingly.
  3. The state, and in reality, virtually all states, were struggling to comply with HAVA (Help America Vote Act–enacted by Congress in the wake of confusion over the 2000 Florida recount) legislation, which involved a vetting process of new voting machines, and there was still a debate raging over whether machines were 100% reliable and tamper proof. One of the machines that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell approved for use in Ohio’s 88 counties was a touch-screen machine manufactured by Diebold, an Ohio-based company. Diebold’s founder personally endorsed George W. Bush, which heightened suspicion about the machines.

The Republicans responded to the Democrats by lining up lawyers for their own army of observers.

On election night, Republican incumbent President George W. Bush beat Democrat challenger John Kerry by a much wider margin in Ohio than the 2000 Bush-Gore contest in Florida, even though Cuyahoga County, the biggest treasure trove of Democrat votes in the state, kept their polls open longer than all the rest of the counties by court order from a Bill Clinton-appointed federal judge. Ohio failed to be the Florida of 2004. John Kerry conceded the state.

That didn’t stop some far-left wackos from living in a state of denial about the election outcomes. Perhaps the most over-the-top critic lashing out with the most outrageous claims was Bob Fitrakis, who would become the Green Party nominee for Governor just two years later. Since the 2004 elections, Fitrakis has not ceased in decrying those elections as stolen. He still points to Diebold voting machines as the number one culprit, pointing to an experiment that demonstrated how a Diebold machine could be tampered with. What Fitrakis fails to acknowledge was that, in the experiment, the machine did show evidence of being tampered with. There were absolutely no reports of machines showing evidence of being tampered with in the wake of the 2004 elections.

Other criticisms were voter suppression, especially at polling locations that experienced long waiting lines; and improper instructions about provisional ballots, including allegations that too many voters were directed to vote provisionally that should have been able to cast a regular vote, and about disallowing too many of the provisional ballots, and even destroying some disallowed provisional ballots to cover up evidence of unethical activity regarding provisional ballots.

Meanwhile, bipartisan Boards of Election in a number of counties had identified individuals who had engaged in voter fraud. It seemed that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell made a decision he deemed politically expedient when he directed those county boards not seek prosecution of those individuals. Apparently, it was expected that the howls of voter suppression would have grown even louder had the prosecutions gone forward. The most common voting fraud charge was an individual voting in more than one location, usually by voting absentee at a permanent address, but voting in person at a temporary address.

As an Oberlin resident in 2004, I had to wait to vote in one of those very long lines. Most of those in line were Oberlin College students, who, in most elections, don’t bother to vote, but since they all turned out in 2004, the number of voting machines at the precinct weren’t exactly adequate for the huge turnout. I have to point out, though, that the Board of Elections in each county is a bi-partisan board, so the allocation of voting machines is a joint decision of both Democrats and Republicans, so, where measures were inadequate, both parties are responsible, so I reject the notion that long lines were the result of a Republican plot.

Enter Jennifer Brunner, elected 2006 as the new Secretary of State in Ohio. She has catered to the left-wing zanies charging Republicans with vote-stealing conspiracies that fail to acknowledge the bi-partisan structure of the Board of Elections in every single one of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Far from introducing bold new measures to ensure the integrity of the vote by preventing fraud perpetrated by individual voters, Brunner’s office filed an amicus brief on the side of refusing to establish voter identification by way of photo ID requirements introduced in Indiana in a suit that came before the U.S. Supreme Court. While catering to left-wing voter concerns, Brunner has failed to act on a voter concern repeatedly raised by those on the right. Such partiality is not what is expected in a Secretary of State, especially one who campaigned on impartiality by pointing to her past service as a judge, which is yet another elected position of which impartiality is expected. With such partiality in evidence as Secretary of State, one has to question whether her service as a judge was impartial or not.

Besides her power grab of Cuyahoga County, the state’s gold mine of Democrat votes, by way of replacing an entire Board of Elections officers along with the director and deputy director, prior to the March primaries in 2008, she decreed that Cuyahoga County abandon touch-screen voting on Diebold machines. Instead, all voting would be conducted on paper ballots. One can expect that the November 2008 elections in Cuyahoga County will also be conducted by using paper ballots.

For my own views on the use of a touch-screen Diebold versus the use of optical scanners, I would like to reference my own eyewitness account of automatic recounts (contests with very narrow vote margins between victor and loser) conducted on December 5, 2007 in Lorain County. Last November, my ex-wife very narrowly lost a re-election bid to the Oberlin Board of Education. Board of Education races are non-partisan affairs, but I will divulge that my ex is a Democrat. She invited me to be an observer of the recount on her behalf.

I signed a roster indicating my attendance as an observer of the recount. Observers of two other races were also present, but there were a total of six races that were subject to automatic recount. In addition to the observers for three races, there were two additional visiting observers, one was a representative of Jennifer Brunner’s office, and the other was a representative of Diebold. The presence of the Diebold representative whenever votes are tabulated is a stipulation that the Lorain County Board of Elections included in the service agreement with Diebold when the voting machines were purchased, thus Diebold is able to respond immediately to any technical concern arising from the voting machines.

In addition to the touch-screen machines, Lorain County also has optical scanners for the paper ballots used by absentee voters and provisional voters.

The Director of the Lorain County Board of Elections, Jose Candelario, a Democrat and also an expert on computer data systems (his expertise is what landed him the Director job ahead of many other applicants), took us on a tour of the facility and reviewed the safeguard procedures used in carrying out an election and in carrying out a recount.

I was amazed at the tight security in place at the office. The Board of Elections office in Lorain County is located in a building that was remodeled, that used to be a savings and loan office. Access to the computers requires a password, half of which only the Democrat employees know and half of which only the Republican employees know, so it takes two persons, one from each party, to access the computers. The Diebold machines are stored in a room that used to be the vault of the savings and loan, so the walls and the door are virtually impregnable. Access to the vault is only granted by unlocking the door using swipes of two employee identification cards, one Republican and one Democrat, thus one political party cannot gain entry without the other. Logging on to the Diebold machines themselves, also requires a Democrat and a Republican, each supplying their half of the password to gain access. We all watched as a Democrat and a Republican tested a couple of Diebold machines, to check their ability to provide an accurate vote count. First, the machine was zeroed out (kind of like calibrating a scale to read zero when nothing is being weighed on it), then votes were entered, as if a mini mock election were taking place. The final tabulations were compared with the actual entries as keyed in by the employees (they matched) and the machines were zeroed out again. Another pair of employees (one Democrat and one Republican) were accessing the paper trail of the sample precincts that would be involved in the recount. Any discrepancy between the recount and the election night results would trigger more recounting, up to a total recount of the entire electorate that were eligible to cast a ballot in the race in question. The paper trail on the Diebold machines is automatically stored on a cash-register like paper roll enclosed in a cannister already sealed with tamper-proof tape. Thus, the paper trail is secured without the aid of human hands. Before opening any of the cannisters for the manual recount, each cannister, with its security tape, was inspected by the two-person (D & R) employee team. With the cannisters before them, the recount began. We observers saw the change in the security tape that showed the cannister was being opened for the first time. The two person team scrolled through the ballots, tallying the votes as they were read from the paper trail. The counts matched exactly the vote totals of the machine-cast ballots on election night.

We also observed the handling of the paper ballots, cast by absentee and provisional voters, along with their recount. There was no representative on hand from the manufacturer of the optical scanners. These ballots were stored in envelopes that were kept in a cage. Provisional ballots that weren’t permitted to be counted were also in the cage, in their original, unsealed envelopes. Two padlocks secured the steel cage that rolled on wheels. One padlock had to be opened with the Republican key and the other padlock had to be opened with the Democrat key. Before sending the paper ballots through the optical scan machines, each sheet of paper was counted to see that it matched the total number of ballots. The votes on the paper ballots were recounted both by the optical scanners, and manually by the two-employee (D & R) team. Both recount totals matched each other and also matched the official totals that were previously certified to the Secretary of State’s office.

The Diebold observer had nothing to do but watch, as there were no problems. Apparently, the Diebold representative job is a cakewalk, as the Lorain County Board of Elections hadn’t experienced problems with the machines. In fact, Jose Candelario expressed his complete confidence in the precision and accuracy of the machines. He had established procedures that were strictly followed by the employees that he said would guarantee the integrity of the vote every time. The representative from the Secretary of State’s office made no attempt to contradict the statements of Director in this regard.

My own observation leads me to draw this conclusion: If a pair of employees, one Democrat and one Republican, were in cahoots with each other to fix the vote without leaving any incriminating evidence, it would have to be done with the optical scan ballots. For one thing, the paper ballots require much more handling by human beings, with many more steps involved, than the touch screen balloting. The cage containing the paper ballots was not as secure as the vault with the touch screen equipment. If a D & R team wished to omit ballots or stuff the ballot box or switch out real ballots for falsified ballots, it would have to be done with the paper balloting system. Cuyahoga County, which has had inexcusable problems following procedures in many past elections, where one might be the most suspicious of a D & R team of being in cahoots, not only was forced to vote on paper ballots by Jennifer Brunner, but was also required to transport those ballots to a central location for tabulation by the optical scanners. Had the votes been tallied at the precincts, elections observers have the potential to red flag any shenanigans. Having ballots transported creates one more vulnerability to a lapse of security.

The primary elections in Cuyahoga County were relatively problem free, giving a green light to use the same system in November, when Democrats and Republicans will be opposing each other. With Jennifer Brunner’s micromanagement of elections in Cuyahoga County (I reiterate, the state’s treasure trove of Democrat votes), with her partiality in question, with the Presidency in the balance, and the relative vulnerability of using paper ballots being sent to a central location (Will precinct-level tabulations be in place on time for November?), and a track record of strange goings on in prior Cuyahoga County elections, one has to wonder whether Jennifer Brunner has her hand in the cookie jar.