Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Monday, September 11

Secty of State: Brunner (D) Calls for Uniform Poll Worker Training

Today's frontpage story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer asks the question, how do you do a recount without a printout? Paper printouts in election machines are supposed to be backup records when vote tallies on the electronic memory cards are disputed. But in the May primary, some machines in Cuyahoga County were left without a paper record because election workers loaded the paper incorrectly. Faced with a legal duty to perform a recount in some races and an incomplete paper trail, Cuyahoga County Board of Elections officials were directed by the office of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) in a May 26 email to reproduce the paper record from the memory card.

Huh? Check the validity of the memory card by printing out what's on it? What sense does that make?

Apparently it makes sense to Blackwell, because his spokesman James Lee defends it in the newspaper article. "Once that occurs you have to look at the facts. . . . and the evidence as it exists," Lee said. "That's what you're seeing here . . . the election officials attempting to make the best out of a bad situation." Even Bob Bennett, chairman of the Board of Elections and of the Ohio Republican Party, had to wonder about that assertion in a recent meeting: "Aren't you defeating the purpose of the paper trail?"

Indeed, as the reporter points out, "[r]eproducing the paper record seems to conflict with Ohio law, which requires a 'voter verified paper audit trail' in electronic voting machines." David Lambert, head of the civil division for the county prosecutor's office, concurs that the law clearly requires that the official ballot be used as the paper trail, and points out that the secretary of state's authority to issues advice and directives "does not include giving advice that runs contrary to the statute."

Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) responded to the news story today by stressing the need for a Secretary of State who provides uniform poll worker training to the state’s boards of elections.

“Boards of elections were left to fend for themselves in training poll workers on new voting technology last year and this year,” Brunner said. “The Secretary of State’s office is now telling the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to circumvent the law in recounting votes because inadequate poll worker training resulted in failed procedures, leaving paper ballots missing.”

The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trial (VVPAT) allows the voter to check the paper receipt that can be viewed in the machine to verify that the votes recorded are actually what the voter voted. Without the paper trail that presumably has been checked by the voter, there is no official ballot to count in a recount.

“There are clear and straightforward solutions to these problems,” said Brunner. “As Secretary of State I will develop uniform poll worker training materials, videos and curriculum, tailored to each type of machine used in Ohio and provide it to Ohio’s 88 county boards of elections. It’s time for a Secretary of State who will take responsibility for ensuring that Ohio’s elections are safe, reliable and trustworthy. Local election officials should not have to endure this type of scrutiny when it comes to verifying election results and poll workers will not be used as political scapegoats.”

Brunner has advocated improved methods of poll worker training and recruitment from the beginning of her campaign, including:
  • Implement uniform poll worker training for all 88 county Boards of Elections so that all poll workers have clear direction,
  • Schedule poll worker training in close proximity to Election Day enabling workers to clearly understand and remember their roles and responsibilities,
  • Include technical training for all types of voting machine operations,
  • Research and implement split-shifts for poll workers, eliminating a 14 hour shift to eight hours,
  • Recruit poll workers of all ages - documented research from groups such as Kids Voting indicates that young poll workers are more likely to become lifelong voters and have an impact on the people around them to vote as well,
  • Explore the opportunities to recruit poll workers in a similar method as we recruit citizens for jury duty, allowing them the same excuses to opt-out, this will greatly increase the number of required poll workers.
Brunner is a former Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge who served as Legislative Counsel for the Secretary of State’s Office and practiced elections law for as a private attorney for 13 years. Her opponent, Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati), is a county clerk who is trying to learn election law as his campaign goes along.

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