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.