Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Tuesday, May 9

Absurd "Investigation" of Election Fiasco Fails the Straight-Face Test

Announced plans for a purportedly independent and complete investigation of the election fiasco in Cuyahoga County during last week's primary are so patently ridiculous they cannot be taken seriously.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports today that during a special meeting Monday the Election Board sought to shift blame for the mess to Diebold Elections, Inc., manufacturer of the touch-screen voting machines and optical scan counting machines used in the election, ignoring mounting evidence of the board's own negligent and inadequate planning, training, and testing of equipment. (Indeed, the same edition of the paper includes an important guest editorial column by Election Day technician Megan Leigh, detailing the gaps and errors in the training provided to her.) As PD reporter Joan Mazzolini points out, "voter advocates reminded the board that they had warned well before the election that poll-worker training was inadequate and that confusion would reign at the polls," and little attention was paid at the meeting to the fact that "poll workers lost 70 computer memory cards holding vote totals from hundreds of precincts."

This horrendous display of incompetence demands a truly independent and thorough investigation. So what do we get? One of the two members of the investigating committee announced by the elections board so far is Ohio Lottery director Tom Hayes, identified in the PD article as a former "director of the elections board in the mid-1990s" and a "running buddy" of current director Michael Vu. Independent investigations are not what you get when a person so closely associated with a potential target is named to the investigating body. But then, the chairman of the elections board is Bob Bennett, who ought to step aside and let someone else choose the investigators since he is simultaneously chairman of one of the two major political parties involved in the bungled election.

Of course, the state official ultimately responsible for the conduct of elections is Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati). Since he is also a major political candidate in the affected election, the Ohio Democratic Party has called on him to step aside and appoint someone else to oversee the investigation of what went wrong in Cuyahoga County. In what ought to become a major issue in the gubernatorial election, Blackwell has flatly refused to consider doing so. The power-drunk arrogance, the blinking away of conflict of interest, and the sheer hubris of this announcement take my breath away.

So, no credible investigation is to be expected from the county board of elections or the secretary of state. Ideally it would now be time to call for the voters rights section of the U.S. Department of Justice to step in, but since the Bush administration has quietly converted that unit into a mechanism of voter suppression there is little reason to do so.


At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Cedar&Lee said...

I enjoy your blog, Yellow Dog. It is generally fair and the analysis is always well-reasoned.

I understand your point about the individuals selected for the investigating committee at the County Board of Elections. The goal should be to avoid "even the appearance of impropriety" in who the Board and its Director select for their committee.

However, despite the characterization by the PD of Tom Hayes as a "running buddy" of Michael Vu, and, therefore, the implication that he will summarily clear his "buddy" and his colleagues of any possible mistakes that were made, I would encourage you to look into the history of Hayes, both in Cleveland and in Columbus.

I worked with him for several years and knew him to be a man of great integrity, and he is well-respected as an impartial trouble-shooter by both D's and R's alike. He has managed both county and state bureaucracies well, and if during the course of the investigation something is turned up that would reflect negatively on the Board, I have no doubt that he would have the you-know-what to expose those deficiencies, for the sake of the integrity of the election process.

Ask people you trust who have been involved in Greater Cleveland's civic affairs over the past thirty years or so their opinion of Tom Hayes. I have a feeling that it will be similar to mine.

Again, keep up the great work with your blog. As a resident of the Heights area (I assume that's where you are?), I especially enjoy your local coverage of political races and issues.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Thanks for our comment, Cedar & Lee! (Which corner, by the way: the movie theater, the high school, the phone store, or the barbecue joint?)

It's welcome news that you know Tom Hayes to be a person of great integrity. I admit to having no information outside what the news story reported. However, I would hope that some other person of great integrity could be found who is neither a recent director of the Board of Elections nor a "buddy" of any of the key people involved.

Nevertheless, what you say is encouraging in the sense that if this is the only investigation we get, perhaps it won't be quite the ridiculous whitewash it appears. Here's hoping.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having dealt with Michael Vu on several occasions, I doubt he's the problem and I'm leery of people screaming to lop off this one and that one even before an investigation. But yes, absolutely, an investigation with not even the slightest appearance os favoritism is absolutely essential in a state and county where voters have become so cynical and demoralized by an election system that's not just broken but shattered and pulverized. It needs to be independent because I suspect the problems go to the top, well above Michael Vu: to Bob Bennett and, of course, Ken Taftwell. We need to find out.


At 7:49 PM, Blogger abdirissa said...

This adds a different perspective to this issue. Where was the Ohio Democratic Party when we were crying out for their support in late 2004 and 2005 regarding the recount and Reform Ohio Now ammendments? The ODP was no where to be found ... "too little, too late!"

From Andrew Warner's blog

Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Ohio Democrats: Too little, too late

Now that Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is running against so-called Democrat Ted Strickland, the Ohio Democratic Party has a problem with Blackwell's inherent conflict of interest in overseeing an election in which he is also running.

I seem to remember a certain amendment which would have rectified this, I believe it was part of that Reform Ohio Now package that state Democrats wanted nothing to do with. It's a shame that Democrats were too busy salivating, figuring they were going to control the state in the years to come (including the office of the Secretary of State), that they wouldn't get behind these issues even though they were quite "democratic."

I imagine, even with the most conservative of Democratic candidates, that it will be hard for them to defeat the guy who gets to tally the votes. I guess you reap what you sew.

If only they would have done the right thing instead of playing their petty game of politics. But that's just an outlandish concept that us idealists, some say foolishly, desperately cling to.

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely don't agree with the analysis the only the "most conservative" Democratic candidates would have even a remote shot at defeating "the guy who gets to tally the votes." And frankly, I am tired of the defeatism that says the election is already signed, sealed and delivered to Kenny Taftwell. Yes, I was disgusted too at certain Democrats, such as Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who came out against the RON issues because their calculation was that the Dems would be retaking power and they wanted their shot at the trough of corruption. But that is absolutely no reason to take potshots at Democrats who want to call attention to this conflict on interest NOW. For all we know, some of the people doing it are ones who fought mightily in favor of RON. Let's check the defeatism at the door, ok?


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