Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Thursday, November 30

Ohio to Kilroy (D): Our Courts are Closed

Here's another little-noticed provision of the complicated election "reform" law, House Bill 3 (three provisions of which have already been stricken by the courts), this part codified at Ohio Rev Code. sec. 3515.08:
The nomination or election of any person to any federal office, including ... the office of member of congress, shall not be subject to a contest of election conducted under this chapter [i.e., the Ohio statute that allows for election contests]. Contests of the nomination or election of any person to any federal office shall be conducted in accordance with the applicable provisions of federal law.
What that means is that unlike candidates for state office, candidates for federal office can't take steps to contest the election result under Ohio law, but must instead pursue their remedies under federal law. That wouldn't be so bad, except that (as the Ohio General Assembly knew perfectly well) federal law doesn't really have any such provisions, at least not in the federal courts. The only conceivable remedy under federal law is for the candidate to petition Congress to intervene and seat the petitioner instead of the putative winner.

So how does this impact Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus), who already has the benefit of an automatic recount? Well, 2,600 provisional ballots were disqualified in Franklin County, some portion of which were cast in the 15th Congressional District and in favor of Kilroy. These were reportedly turned aside because the voters weren't registered to vote, or voted in the wrong precinct. As to the latter, however, Ohio law requires poll workers to attempt to direct voters to the correct precinct, and anecdotal evidence suggests that poll workers were delinquent in performing this duty. Some of those provisional ballot would have been cast as regular ballots, if poll workers had done their jobs. If Kilroy wants to challenge the election over this failure to follow the law, H. B. 3 prevents her from going to state court to do that. Federal law provides no court remedy, so that leaves her with petitioning Congress, which at this point is still controlled by the Republican Party.

In what conceivable way is this provision an election "reform"? I think that what it's really about is that Republicans, big winners in 2004, didn't like the way that activists (supporters of losing candidates) complained about that election, requested a recount, and filed lawsuits. No more election challenges by sore losers in federal races, the Republican legislators decreed (H.B. 3 was passed along party lines). In the end, the integrity of the election process is the real loser.

Hat-tip to the excellent Moritz College of Law Election Blog.

Setting the Record Straight on Subodh Chandra

Last week the Cleveland Plain Dealer went overboard in its coverage of a minor episode in an important lawsuit. The important story was that the lawsuit largely succeeded in avoiding an impending catastrophe in the debut of the vague and inconsistent voter ID requirements in House Bill 3. There were still some problems at the polling places, but nothing like the disaster that loomed before a November 1st consent order and a November 14th agreed enforcement order were issued by the judge in the case. These orders defined vague terms in the statute and clarified the specific procedures to be followed, including importantly that every absentee ballot would be counted whether or not ID was submitted with the ballot and provisional ballots would be counted without further verification when they should have been cast as regular ballots. This was a huge victory for voting rights. The lawyers for the plaintiffs, including former Cleveland Law Director Subodh Chandra, deserve public praise and recognition for their achievement.

What the Plain Dealer chose to highlight (and mischaracterize) last week was a mere internal glitch in the litigation, not affecting the public or the outcome of the case. A lawyer (Chandra) did something that annoyed the judge -- he sent an email to all 88 county boards of elections, forwarding copies of court documents and urging compliance with the court's orders -- but after a hearing the judge agreed that no rules or laws were violated and the lawyer deserves no punishment of any kind. It should have been a non-story, a passing mention at best.

Instead, the Plain Dealer trumpeted the incident in two news stories, AND in its "Cheers and Jeers" feature. The first story told how the lawyer faced a contempt hearing the next day. The next day's headline was not "Judge Exonerates Lawyer" but "Judge Upbraids Lawyer," focusing on the judge's expression of displeasure at the hearing and ignoring his actual order that vacated the contempt motion and imposed no sanction of any kind. Two days later the paper gave Chandra a "Jeer," saying that Chandra sent an e-mail to the boards "on how to count provisional ballots," failing to mention that he was not making up his own rules but forwarding official documents and the court orders, and that he told the boards in the email to consult their own lawyers on the matter, and that he simultaneously sent the email to lawyers for the state. The "Jeer" also said that Chandra "was lucky he got no more than a lecture." Lucky? With no factual basis at all, the paper implied that Chandra did something illegal (or at least grievously improper) and deserved punishment that he was fortunate to avoid.

Some readers will think this is not a big deal and I should just let it drop, but I strongly disagree. Lawyers who champion the rights of individuals against the power of the state are engaged in the noblest and bravest task in the whole field of law. They challenge the most powerful of all adversaries in the pursuit of justice, and they deserve our utmost respect. All too frequently, however, there is a pushback against the few who are willing to take on this role. They are troublemakers, they "push too hard," they cause embarrassment to public officials, they make it harder for bureaucrats to take the easy way over the right way. So it bothers me a great deal when a lawyer who achieved much in the protection of voters' rights is portrayed as a malefactor instead of a hero.

I can't make the newspaper retract the coverage I don't like, but I can at least do my part to set the record straight:
(1) Chandra violated no attorney disciplinary rule. The lawyers for Blackwell put this ridiculousness in their contempt motion, but they had dropped it by the time of the actual hearing.

(2) The boards of elections weren't parties to the litigation, so it wasn't a case of a lawyer communicating directly to persons already represented by another lawyer. Opinion 92-7 of the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline specifically says that lawyers can communicate with governmental entities unless and until a government attorney is involved in the particular matter. Only the Franklin County Board of Elections had been specifically represented by lawyers in this situation, and Chandra sent the email relating to that board to those lawyers instead of to the board.

(3) In a different voting rights case at about the same time, Chandra had communicated with all 88 boards of election with the explicit approval of government counsel (in fact, that's how he got the email addresses).

(4) Chandra committed no contempt of court. Contempt is so broadly defined that it basically consists of whatever a judge declares it to be, and in this instance the judge declared that no contempt occurred. While the judge did scold Chandra for bad judgment in going directly to the boards instead of through the court in this instance, he also praised Chandra's performance in the case and his abilities as a lawyer.
All I'm saying is, please -- let us cease with this impugning of a champion of our fundamental rights, and let us afford him instead the honor and praise that he deserves.

Wednesday, November 29

Cuyahoga County May Scrap E-Voting Machines

Cuyahoga County Commissioners Jimmy Dimora (D) and Tim Hagan (D) told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that they are considering dumping electronic voting machines purchased since the problematic 2004 election at a cost of about $17 million, subsidized by federal money under the HAVA Act.

The County spent an extra $14 million on training, extra equipment, and postage for absentee ballots to avert a disastrous election this fall. Dimora and Hagan said that the county simply can't afford to pay that kind of money to make elections go smoothly. The concern about 2008 is that turnout for presidential elections is much larger than for other elections. Consultant Tom Hayes informed the Board of Elections in his last report that the current e-voting system cannot easily accomodate an increase in voter turnout, unlike voting on paper and using high-speed optical scanning machines. The county already uses optical scanners for absentee ballots, and Hagan and Dimora are considering using them for all votes.

The commissioners have not approached the Board of Elections about their idea. Chairman Bob Bennett (also Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party) is not impressed. He told the Plain Dealer that he understands the commissioners' concerns, but that extra expenditure won't be required for every election.

Bill Frist Will Not Run for President

The AP is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has announced he will not run for the White House. Here is his statement:
In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008.
Not very illuminating.

Once regarded as a likely front-runner, Frist saw his prospects diminish as a result of the embarrassing Terry Schiavo episode (a doctor, Frist purported to assess Schiavo's medical condition based on watching a short video, declaring her to have mental function that the eventual autopsy disproved categorically), and an investigation into a possible ethics violation involving securities that he owns. His tenure as Senate Majority Leader has not been wholly successful, either, with many regarding him as having been outmaneuvered by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on numerous occasions.

Although they have not issued definitive statements about it, vanquished U.S. Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and George Allen (R-VA) are regarded as other potential 2008 presidential contenders whose misfortunes have undercut their chances. Seeing ample running room to the right of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY), other potential candidates like Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), and even Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) are actively exploring presidhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifential bids.

CORRECTION: Hunter has officially declared his candidacy. MyDD.com reports today that Romney has picked out his national campaign headquarters already.

UPDATE: Hotline has more, including this enigmatic further statement from Frist:
“We are ready to return to Nashville and private life. We will seek the best opportunity to serve mankind. We will stay actively involved in formulating innovative solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problems that face Americans every day -- high cost of health care, energy dependence, the threat of radical Islam. I may return to what I’ve done for most of my adult life: heal through medicine (the way I saw my dad serve since I was a little boy riding around with him, his black doctor’s bag tucked between us, as he’d travel the neighborhood making house calls). I, of course, will immediately resume my regular medical mission trips as a doctor around the world to serve those in poverty, in famine, and in civil war. That is where my centeredness is fueled.”
Civil war? THAT civil war?

Cong OH-2: Wulsin (D) Will Run Again ...

... but not necessarily for the 2nd Congressional District seat. This according to a story by the Ohio News Network today:
Democratic challenger Victoria Wulsin finally conceded the election earlier today. But the close race has whetted her appetite for politics.

She says she is NOT sure whether she will try for a rematch, or for another office.

The public health doctor says, quoting, "I definitely want to try again."
I think this is great news. Wulsin ran a fantastic campaign. She was energetic, inventive, tireless, inspiring. In a word, she's damned good at it.

UPDATE: As noted by a commenter, and reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today, Dr. Wulsin has applied to become Gov. Strickland's Director of the Ohio Department of Health. Good fit for her.

Tuesday, November 28

Ohio Sen 30th & 32nd: BREAKING - Cafaro (D) and Wilson (D) Selected

Gongwer News Service is reporting that the Ohio Senate Democrats for the next legislative session have voted to appoint shopping mall heiress Capri Cafaro (D) and Jason Wilson (D) to replace Attorney General-elect Marc Dann and Congressman-elect Charlie Wilson, respectively.

Cafaro has run for Congress twice, spending millions of dollars from her family fortune. She lost to Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Concord Township) in the 14th Congressional District in 2004, after a campaign marred by her exaggeration of her experience as a legislative aide and her clumsy attacks on LaTourette over his extra-marital affair with a lobbyist, and she finished second to Congresswoman-elect Betty Sutton (D-Copley Township) in the 2006 primary in the 13th Congressional District. Cafaro has enjoyed support from labor groups and had the endorsement of Dann for the Ohio Senate seat.

Wilson is the son of the incumbent and is perhaps best known for mishandling his father's election petitions in advance of the 2006 primary in the 6th Congressional District, with the result that the petitions were invalidated for not having 50 valid signatures from within the district. The younger Wilson was fired as campaign manager, but the senior Wilson won the primary handily as a write-in candidate and cruised to an easy victory over State Rep. Charles Blasdel (R-East Liverpool).

From press releases issued by the Senate Democratic Caucus:
Cafaro, 29, graduated from Stanford University with a BA in American Studies at age 19 and from Georgetown University with a MALS in International Studies. She serves on the Trumbull County Senior Services Advisory Council and is a State Policy Liaison for Ohio with the National Patient Advocate Foundation. She was also a State Advocate Representative for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Cafaro serves as a Councilor for the Medicare Rights Center. As a participant in the Clinton Global Initiative task force, she developed a project on Anti-Corruption efforts in emerging democracies. She is a current member of the American Public Health Association and the International Federation on Aging. “My experience in health care and aging policy will aid me in my work as a State Senator,” Cafaro said. “These two issues impact the well-being of all Ohioans and as a Senator I will strive to enact legislation that deals with both health care and aging needs. I will also work to be a strong voice for economic development for Trumbull and Ashtabula counties. I will be a strong voice for working men and women by helping small business growth and developing our resources as part of alternative and renewable energies. I am excited to begin my work as Senator and I look forward to working with and learning from the current Democratic Caucus members.”

Jason Wilson, 38, graduated from The Ohio State University in 1992 with a BA in Political Science and from Wheeling Jesuit University in 1996 with a MBA. Wilson brings to the Ohio Senate extensive business experience along with serving on numerous boards and associations such as the Bridgeport Area Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Funeral Director’s Association and the American Heart Association. “I look forward to working with the next Democratic Leader and the Democratic Caucus to help the residents of the 30th district and the entire state of Ohio. I am honored to become a member of the Ohio Senate and I thank my wife Leah, friends and family for their support."

Cross-posted at Ohio Daily Blog

Ohio Sen 30th & 32nd: Trevena (D) Withdraws; Take the Poll

Cindy at As Ohio Goes has this post up about this article in the Youngstown Vindicator, reporting that front-runner Anthony Trevena (D-Guilford), a staffer for governor-elect Ted Strickland, has withdrawn his name from consideration as a replacement for Congressman-elect Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville) in the Ohio Senate. Trevena was asked to withdraw by the Strickland transition team so that he can take a post in the new gubernatorial administration.

Meanwhile, Redhorse at Psychobilly Democrat has a reader poll on the three candidates to replace Attorney General-elect Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) in the 32nd (i.e., State Rep. Sandy Stabile Harwood, perennial candidate Capri Cafaro, and former state legislator Tony Latell).

Cross-posted at Ohio Daily Blog

Cong OH-2: Wulsin (D) Concedes

Editor at Ohio 2nd Blog reports that Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) has conceded the race to Rep. "Mean Jean" Schmidt (R-Loveland).

Wulsin ran a fantastic campaign. None of the "experts" liked her chances at the outset, and she wound up coming even closer than Paul Hackett in the 2005 special election. With a little more help from the national Democratic establishment she could have won this race handily.

Cross-posted at Ohio Daily Blog

Monday, November 27

Ohio Sen 12th: Seven Apply to Replace Jordan (R)

Gongwer News Service reports today that seven people have applied to be the replacement for Congressman-elect Jim Jordan (R-Urbana). The applicants are State Rep. Keith Faber (R-Celina), former state representatives Derrick Seaver (R-Minster) and Gene Krebs (R-Camden), financial advisor Robert Luckey III of Sidney, Blackwell aide Toni Slusser of Celina, attorney Vincent Foulk of Urbana, and jewelry company executive Kreg Allison of Sidney. A screening committee of Senate Republicans will interview the candidates next week.

Ohio Sen 30th: List of Candidates for Appointment Changes

Gongwer News Service is reporting that the list of interviewees for the pending appointment of a replacement for Congressman-elect Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville) changed somewhat today. State Rep. Allan Sayre (D-Dover) has dropped out of consideration, and three new candidates have stepped forward: Columbiana County assistant prosecutor Nick Barborak, Bridgeport attorney Chris Gagin, and New Philadelphia City Councilmember Sandy Cox. Previously identified candidates that are still in the running are State Rep. John Domenick (D-Smithfield), Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas, former Strickland aide Anthony Trevena, and Wilson's son Jason Wilson.

Ohio House 20th: McGregor (R) By Only 364 Votes Over Campbell (D)

The Franklin County Board of Elections announced this morning that incumbent Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna) defeated challenger Bev Campbell (D-Gahanna) by the tiny margin of 364 votes in the final vote count, down from a margin of 933 votes before absentee and provisional ballots were tallied. Since the unofficial count included just under 40,000 votes cast in this race, it appears that the final margin is not quite narrow enough to trigger an automatic recount.

UPDATE: According to an election observer who spoke to Bev Campbell at the Franklin County Board of Elections, she will seek a recount at her own expense, and will pursue other legal action against Jim McGregor. This is partially confirmed by the latest version of the Dispatch story, which reports that Campbell "might seek" a recount.

In the comments, Bev Campbell writes:
I would say the odds are extremely high that we will be seeking at least a partial, if not, full recount. The results certified today showed a margin of only 364 votes out of a total of 43356 counted. That does not include those provisionals/absentees which were disqualified or not counted for any reason. With only .17% more of the margin falling on our side we would have qualified for an automatic recount. And given the number of votes which it appears were not counted at all, we believe we have a moral obligation to see that every single legitimate vote is counted - and counted fairly.
I applaud her for standing up for true democracy. Let every vote be counted.

Cong OH-15: BREAKING - Pryce by 1,054 Votes per BOE

Thanks to Bill Callahan of Callahan's Cleveland Diary for alerting me that the local NBC affiliate in Columbus is reporting that Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Upper Arlington) came out ahead of challenger Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus) by 1,054 in the official count, which includes absentee and provisional ballots.

UPDATE: The law provides for an automatic recount if the final margin is within one-half of one percent. This margin appears to be just within that limit, since there were about 200,000 votes included in the unofficial results and 20,000 additional ballots to be included in the final count, but this can't be verified without more precise information.

2nd UPDATE: According to this post at DailyKos, Franklin County Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroeder confirms that the final margin is narrow enough to trigger an automatic recount.

3rd UPDATE: The Columbus Dispatch story is up.

4th UPDATE: More from the local NBC affiliate:
Don McTigue, lawyer for Kilroy, said the final numbers confirmed his own estimates of the margin of votes. "I was predicting that it would be just around 1,000 votes," McTigue said. "I was hoping for just psychological reasons to be just under 1,000, but this is still under the free recount category so I'm very happy about that."

The Franklin County elections board reviewed just under 21,000 provisional ballots, throwing out about 2,600 of them. Most of the uncounted provisionals were cast by people who weren't registered to vote or voted in the wrong precinct, elections director Matt Damschroder said.
Call me stupid, but I don't understand why provisional ballots not counted for those reasons weren't reported to election observers as failing to meet the eight-part test contained in the November 1st consent order. Two of the eight parts of that test are being registered to vote and being eligibile to vote in the precinct. What am I missing?

Kilroy has not conceded and said she wants the recount to move forward. The Kilroy campaign will look closely at rejected provisional ballots, particularly those cast by registered voters in the wrong precinct. “This is the longest election night I've been through,” Kilroy said. “We are on to the next phase here.”

6th UPDATE: Just for the record, the AP reports the final margin as 1,055, broken down as follows:
Franklin County (certified Monday):
Kilroy: 98,964
Pryce: 91,411

Madison County (certified Monday):
Kilroy: 5,075
Pryce: 8,337

Union County (certified Nov. 21):
Kilroy: 5,620
Pryce: 10,966

Kilroy 109,659
Pryce: 110,714

Sunday, November 26

Franklin County Board of Elections to Certify Official Results at 9:00 AM Tomorrow

A reader has sent me a copy of an official notice sent by the Franklin County Board of Elections to election observers, indicating that the board will meet at 9:00 am tomorrow for the purpose of certifying the official election results of the general election on November 7th. The disputed 15th Congressional district race between Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Upper Arlington) and challenger Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus) and the 20th Ohio House District race between State Rep. Scott Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna) and challenger Bev Campbell (D-Gahanna) hinge upon the offical results, which will include previously uncounted absentee and provisional ballots, as well as some votes not previously counted due to errors in the handling of electronic voting machines.

The official notice also indicates that no provisional ballots are to be excluded from the official results due to insufficient proof of identification or failure to meet the eight-part test for inclusion established by the U.S. District Court in a consent order entered on November 1st in the voter ID litigation. This notice is given in compliance with the Agreed Enforcement Order subsequently entered in the case, designed to insure that election observers have the opportunity to challenge any exclusion of provisonal ballots for reasons relevant to the litigation. It is surprising that no provisional ballots are identified in the notice, since the eight-part test includes broad and common problems with provisional ballots like not being registered to vote, ineligibility to vote, and ineligibility to vote in the particular precinct. The fact that no ballots are to be excluded for these reasons raises the question of whether any provisonal ballots are to be excluded at all, a departure from the typical result that something like 15% to 30% of provisional ballots are excluded from the official results of an election.

UPDATE: I'm told that there are many provisional ballots to be excluded. How the board justifies not reporting the exclusions under the heading of failure to meet the eight-part test remains to be seen.

Redfern/Bennett Road Show - Part Two

Four days ago I wrote a post about a panel discussion featuring ODP Chair Chris Redfern and ORP Chair Bob Bennett in Beachwood, Ohio on November 21st. That entry covered the introduction and opening remarks. This part reports on most of the question-and-answer session, including a few bombshells (like Bennett quantifying how many GOP legislators county chairmen are gay, and separately calling some of them GOP legislators "complete idiots").

Alan Melamed started the Q & A by asking each to give the other party advice about how to proceed under the changed conditions of the next few years. Bennett advised Democrats that "when you control so many offices, you need to keep the in-fighting down." The problem stems not so much from the officeholders themselves as from their "agents," i.e., "hired help and campaign managers." It is "inevitable" to have "clashing ambitions" among these players, and the resulting squabbles and turf battles are counterproductive to governance. Redfern advised the Republicans to "serve with humility" and "listen to the people on Main Street first."

Redfern said of the next two years that "our work is not done." In 2008 there will be 16 Ohio Senate seats up for election, of which 16 are held by the Republicans and 6 of those are swing districts. In the Ohio House, 7 Republicans were elected or re-elected by less than 1,400 votes. Thus, the party plans to push hard to make more electoral gains. However, the two parties have the "shared goal" of "bringing jobs and attracting corporations to Ohio," so Redfern hopes the parties can advance a legislative agenda toward these ends. Bennett remarked that as painful as it may be to hear, "manufacturing jobs are not coming back." Ohio therefore needs to address jobs of the future." The "Third Frontier" initiative was a good start, he said.

Asked about the idea of bipartisan (or non-partisan) redistricting, Bennett issued a strikingly pointed denunciation of the current partisan redistricting process. Control of the Apportionment Board (which consists of the Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, and appointees of the majority and minority parties in the General Assembly) and the scientific use of computers to create precisely tailored districts "has not helped the Republican Party," he declared. "I have some complete idiots in those 75% Republican districts." There are better legislators in close districts than in districts packed with partisan voters of one stripe, he said, because in the latter kind the candidates "don't have to listen to anyone" to get elected. The bipartisan redistricting bill that was introduced into the Ohio House in 2005 (House joint Resolution 13), he said, could be a good bill "if tweaked." The problem with the Reform Ohio Now redistricting plan (defeated at the ballot box in 2005) was that competitiveness was the only criterion, at the expense of community of interest.

Redfern responded by attacking HJR 13 because the final arbiter would have been the Ohio Supreme Court, a body now staffed entirely by Republicans. Redfern said he hopes to push a three-part reform plan:
1) No elected officials on the Apportionment Board;

2) Extend term limits from 8 to 12 years; and,

3) Public financing of General Assembly and Congressional races, because "we have to take the money out of this process."
Bennett shot back that 75% of the public opposes public financing of political campaigns, but Redfern replied that 75% opposed term limits. It takes "courage and political capital" to implement unpopular but needed reforms, he added.

On the topic of reforming how public education is financed, Redfern said he believes that Ohio deserves a public debate on the matter. As the legislature becomes closer, it is "easier to agree on 95% of issues," he said. It will be very difficult to fix school funding in 4 years (i.e., Strickland's first term), because "people don't want to pay more taxes." However, the state needs to put more money into education. What Ohio needs first, however, is "to have the discussion on how much we need to put in," a discussion that has not yet occurred. In response, Bennett made the odd point that previous Democratic tax increases have been sustained by Republicans during their control of state government, and said that the parties are going to have to work together to address the school funding problem.

Asked if negative campaigning has gone too far and how it could be curtailed, Bennett said that Republican ads were 80% negative and Democratic ads were 70% negative, and that the proportions probably would have been equal if you took Ted Strickland out (i.e, he was so far ahead he didn't need to run them). He pointed out that mailings are just as much of a problem as TV ads. (He also explained that political parties generally handle mailers on behalf of individual candidates because they get to use bulk mailing rates.) Bennett identified robo-calls as something that particularly needs to be controlled, but pointed out that they are mostly generated by independent groups. In general, Bennett expects negative ads to continue "because consultants say they work." He advocated a bipartisan panel to look into the issue of controlling negative ads.

Redfern made an interesting point, asking how many in the audience had donated to campaigns (nearly everyone) and asserting that contributors have an obligation to contact campaigns and express displeasure when their contributions are used for negative advertising. He said that he and Director of Operations David Duffey looked at each ad and piece of literature "with my name on it" (i.e., funded by the Ohio Democratic Party) to check that it was factual and "defensible back home." At that point Redfern launched into a rant against Bennett's suggestion that negative advertising is a problem shared equally by the parties (i.e., with his 80%/70% remark). The ODP was outspent by the ORP on Ohio House races by a ratio of 7:1, he said, and "80% of $7.2 million is a lot more than 70% of $1 million." He then alluded to particular Republican smear ads by joking that one thing he learned during this campaign is you can't run for office if you've "ever been a defense lawyer," or "have an Italian surname, or "certainly not if you are gay." Warming to his topic, he objected to the TV ad against State Auditor Barbara Sykes, an "outspoken African-American woman," for using tape of her in a debate saying that she was proud to have supported a tax increase supported by Gov. Bob Taft. Redfern noted that Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Tom Raga voted for both of Taft's tax increases while Sykes only voted for one, implying that the film clip of Sykes was really used to highlight her race.

Bennett rejected the idea that the anti-Sykes ad was based on racial prejudice, and noted that he has recruited African American candidates to run for office. He said that the tax comment by Sykes was a legitimate subject for a political ad. Redfern then brought up the ugly ad run by the Republican Party against Ohio House candidate Dan Dodd, which juxtaposed a small image of the white Dodd with an enormous image of a black convict on death row and claimed that Dodd would release death row inmates like the convict into the community. Redfern demanded to know why there was no press conference by the GOP the day after that ad came out, denouncing it as atrocious.

Asked about the domination of the Ohio Republican Party by the far right, Bennett observed that "the great leveler is when you lose." He conceded that the far right can't win by itself, and that in this election the GOP lost independent and "soft Republican" votes. This, he said, is why most politicians move to the center when they switch from campaigning to governing. It is also why Bennett "hates primaries." Independent voters don't vote in primaries, so candidates are driven to the far right (or far left). Bennett agrees that the ORP has focused too much on social issues and not enough on fiscal issues. (To illustrate fiscal issues, he brought up retirees wanting to leave Ohio for Florida because of Ohio's burdensome taxes.) At this point Bennett said that he doesn't get involved in social issues the way "some of my colleagues do." He said that three, "maybe four," of his 88 County Republican Chairmen are gay and it has never bothered him. They are "among my best chairmen," he said.

Asked about partisanship on the part of Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Redfern pointed out that Jennifer Brunner is committed to not being involved in any race (or issue campaign) while she holds that office. If she runs for re-election, she will appoint a "master" within the Secretary of State's office who will oversee elections without any direction from her. Bennett responded by saying that the 2006 election "reform" law House Bill 3 took the Secretary of State "out of the political arena" by prohibiting that official from acting as a campaign chairman. Bennett noted that he has served on two presidential commissions on the primary process, and that in almost every case Secretaries of State he has met have expressed admiration for Ohio's system of bipartisan election oversight. Ohio has the best election system in the country, he said, but it has been "trashed by activists who didn't like the outcome" of particular elections. "People don't want to recognize that there's no such thing as a perfect election," he said.

The next questioner referred to Ohio as having the third heaviest tax burden in the nation, and Redfern attacked that statistic as incorrect and misleading. Redfern said that he would oppose repealing the Ohio estate tax or cutting it back to federal limits, but would instead support tax cuts that benefit the working class and middle class. Bennett said that the Ohio estate tax should be made consistent with the federal estate tax, as other states have done. He again brought up retirees who move to Florida because of the difference in tax burdens (Florida has no income tax), and suggested that the impact of losing seniors is very great because Ohio loses their charitable giving. At that point someone in the audience pointed out that "you can't change the weather," and thus that people will continue to go to Florida to retire even if the tax code is altered.

I had to miss the tail end of the program. Jill has some interesting comments about it here.

[Cross-posted at Ohio Daily Blog]

Friday, November 24

Ohio Sen 24th: Spada (R) to Vacate Seat?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer blog Openers hints that term-limited State Sen. Bob Spada (R-North Royalton) may be hired to replace Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Director Michael Vu, rumored to be on his way out as early as next week. That would allow the interim appointment of outgoing State Rep. Jim Trakas (R-Independence) to Spada's seat, so that Trakas can run as an incumbent in 2008. Another possibility mentioned for Spada is running for the mayor's office in his hometown of North Royalton.

Thursday, November 23

Camusfearna Gorge

Last weekend my wife and I enjoyed a long-awaited respite at a beautiful spot in the Hocking Hills, far away from our daily routine. Here's a little glimpse:

[NOTE: I have removed the embedded link, but the video is available at my YouTube account.]

Ohio Sen 30th: Five To Interview For Appointment

Gongwer News Service reports that five people will be interviewed by Senate Democrats in the process to replace Congressman-elect State Sen. Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville), two more than previously indicated on this blog. The new entries are Rep. John Domenick (D-Smithfield) and Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas. Previously reported are Rep. Allan Sayre (D-Dover), Strickland staffer and campaign aide Anthony Trevena, and the incumbent's son Jason Wilson. Trevena is regarded as the frontrunner.

Wednesday, November 22

The Redfern/Bennett Road Show in Beachwood - Part One

Last night I attended a panel presentation by Ohio's Democratic and Republican party chairmen, State Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island Township) and Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Chairman Bob Bennett (R-Fairview Park) respectively, at Suburban Temple-Kol Ami in Beachwood. Apparently this is not the first joint appearance by this odd couple since the election. The event I attended was sponsored by the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland and the American Jewish Committee. Bloggers Jill Zimon of Writes Like She Talks and Mike Cook of the Solon Democratic Club were on hand, as were newly elected State Reps. Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) and Josh Mandel (R-Lyndhurst). Alan Melamed, a Shaker Heights-based political consultant, was the moderator.

Melamed joked that Bennett is "Chairman for Life," brandishing his (purported) 17-page resume, and it is true that Bennett's fabled political career is lengthy (he has headed up the ORP since 1988). Redfern was elected as party leader last December, and Melamed joked about meeting him during Lee Fisher's 1998 gubernatorial campaign "when Chris was twelve." (Redfern was actually born in 1964. He only looks like he's 20.) Redfern was the youngest county commissioner in Ohio when he assumed that post in Ottawa County in 1993, serving two and a half terms before his election to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2002.

Melamed's firm now works for the local board of elections, so he joked about how his respect for Bennett has grown since Bennett became the man who signs his paychecks. Of course, Melamed said, "I then give the money to Chris," alluding to political contributions to the ODP. Leaning back in his chair to look at Bennett, Redfern said in a stage whisper "You need to pay him more."

Redfern described the Democrats' challenge after the election as "representing not just Democrats but all Ohioans." He said that the Democrats did several things right in the election, and the Republicans did several things wrong, including some over which they had no control (i.e., some scandals were inevitable because they controlled everything in state government). Redfern also suggested that being from Port Clinton rather than the political hotbed of Columbus, and being in the legislature, helped him as party chair because he understood better what ordinary people cared about in this election.

Explaining the scale of the Democratic victory, Redfern noted that John Kerry won only 17 Ohio counties and underperformed the Democratic Performance Index ("DPI") in 65. Employing an 88-county strategy, Ted Strickland won 72 counties and Sherrod Brown outperformed the DPI in 64 counties. (Brown won 46 counties outright.) The party also scored the biggest General Assembly pickup by the Democrats in three decades, and won dozens of local races (including county commission and judicial seats) across the state. Redfern attributed this success to having a consistent message, installing good people (including bright young people from out of state) in the coordinated campaign, improving fundraising, and having "swagger" and "the attitude of being right on issues that matter most." He said that the party would be focusing on school board, city council, and mayoral races in 2007, because "if we're active in those races, we'll have better recruitment in 2008." He also said that he learned from Bennett, who built the best Republican state organization in the country, that the key is to make your party's positions on issues attractive to people who are not necessarily members of your party.

Bennett started by saying that justice was served in the Tom Noe case, calling the man a liar and a crook and intimating that his sentence should have been longer, and remarking that the only good thing to come out of it is a "renewed commitment to making sure it never happens again." He said that "the Republicans failed to set a high standard for themselves, and the voters set it for them." Having taken control of most statewide offices, the Democrats will now have to "police their own," which is "harder to do than pointing fingers."

Congratulating Redfern, Bennett noted that the ODP kept focused, avoided divisive primaries, and took advantage of a "perfect storm" of GOP problems. As to the GOP's losses, he said, "the message has been heard." However, without diminishing the Democrats' success, Bennett pointed out that the ORP "bucked the national trend" by:
(1) Holding onto its legislative majority (the number of states nationwide wholly controlled by Democrats went from 7 to 15, and New Hampshire has its first Democratic majority since 1922);

(2) Gaining every seat on the Ohio Supreme Court (although, he said, "Chris is trying to get one to switch," a reference to Justice Paul E. Pfeifer's disclosure that he is considering a request to switch parties).

(3) Holding its Congressional losses to just one seat (Zack Space (D-Dover) defeated joy Padgett (R-Coschocton) for the 18th District seat of convicted Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath)).
"If not for the intensity of our grassroots effort," he said, "we would have lost more." He said that the ORP made 1/2 million telephone calls and knocked on 1/4 million doors in the last 12 days of the campaign, shattering their 2004 records. The ORP "remains strong and intact." However, the party "needed this," i.e., needed a reminder that they "served at the pleasure of the people." He predicted the ORP comeback would begin in 2008, repeating the historical example of Republican success in 1960 and 1962 following a Democratic sweep in 1958. He quoted Plain Dealer columnist Brent Larkin's comment that the Democratic Party needs to "stop bitching and start governing," noting that "with control comes great responsibility."

Bennett also said that the ORP is obligated to work together in a bipartisan fashion with the Democrats. The lesson of the election is that "pride goes before a fall," he said, and "if you take the public trust for granted, the public will take it away."

Much more to follow in Part Two.

Vote Counting Updates

Latest reports from races that were too-close-to-call before the final count now underway:

2nd Cong. District: The Associated Press has called this race for incumbent "Mean Jean" Schmidt (R-Loveland), based on tallies of absentee and provisional ballots from Adams, Pike, and especially Warren County. These increased Schmidt's lead from 2,865 to 3,200. Dr. Victoria Wulsin (D-Indian Hill) would have to win the remaining votes (mostly in Hamilton and Clermont counties) by more than a 2-to-1 ratio to prevail. The final counts there won't be announced until after Thanksgiving.

Editor at the excellent Ohio 2nd blog warns against treating AP's call as an official announcement, comparing Wulsin's campaign to a football team that’s "down by 14 on their own 33 yard line with 44 seconds left." Nobody expects that team to walk off the field rather than see the game out, so why should anyone complain about Wulsin waiting for the final count of votes from Clermont and Hamilton County?

In the AP story, Wulsin says she's in no hurry to concede and wants to make sure all votes are counted, and also that she could have won if the party gave her more support. (I agree.) "I'm disappointed that [Schmidt] picked up so many votes (in Warren County), but I'm not surprised," Wulsin said. "I will still wait until the outstanding votes are fewer than the difference between her and me."

15th Cong. District: The Columbus Dispatch reports today that the lead of Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Upper Arlington) over challenger Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus) has grown to 3,717 due to absentee and provisional ballots from conservative Madison and Union counties. Pryce's net gain of 181 from those counties is described as smaller than expected, based on a Dispatch analysis that predicted a gain of 250. As many as 19,500 ballots remain to be counted in Franklin county. Kilroy would need to win more than 60% of those to pull ahead, greater than her 51% share of previously counted votes in that county. However, provisional ballots in general tend to break toward Democrats because they are more likely to have been cast by transient and/or less affluent voters, and many of these provisional ballots are from OSU students who generally supported Kilroy in this race.

In addition to absentee and provisional ballots, the final count in Franklin will include somewhere around 1,800 votes that were not tallied on election night because 30 electronic voting machines were not shut down properly. It is unclear how many of those are in the 15th Congressional District.

20th Ohio House District:
The Dispatch story also notes that incumbent Rep. Jim McGregor (R-Gahanna) leads challenger Bev Campbell (D-Gahanna) by 933 votes with about about 4,500 absentee and provisional votes yet to be counted in this district that includes a small part of Columbus and several eastern suburbs. Campbell is hoping for an extra margin of support from provisional ballots cast by Capitol University students and assisted living facility residents in the district.

92nd Ohio House District: The Gongwer news service reported yesterday that the lead of incumbent Rep. Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) over challenger Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) shrank from 1,373 to 864 as a result of final counting in Athens County (carried convincingly by Phillips) and smaller Miegs and Morgan counties (won by Stewart). However, it looks like Stewart will win. A portion of Washington County is in the 92nd district and the final count there won't be announced until today at the earliest, but officials estimated that there are only 350-400 ballots to be counted there.

UPDATE: Debbie Phillips sent an e-mail message to supporters late yesterday, conceding the race and expressing thanks:
Athens has now completed the count. I picked up a significant number of votes, but not quite enough. In the end, I have 49% of the vote. We do not have final numbers from Washington County, but the number of ballots remaining to be counted won’t be enough to make up the difference.

I want to thank everyone who helped with the campaign. We had a great team! More than 700 people contributed to the campaign, and more than 500 individuals volunteered—making phone calls, knocking on doors, walking in parades and helping out on election day. You are wonderful, and I am so grateful for your help and support.

And — we won a lot. We have a great new Governor. We won most of the key positions in Ohio. We picked up seven seats in the Ohio House, and we won Congress and the US Senate. There’s a lot of work to do to turn around Ohio, and I look forward to working with all of you to help make Ohio great again. Thank you for all the good work you do!

Tuesday, November 21

Chandra Exonerated at Contempt Hearing in Voter ID Case

Today in Columbus, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley vacated the motion to show cause filed by lawyers for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R-Cincinnati) and Attorney General Jim Petro (R-Rocky River) against plaintiffs' attorney Subodh Chandra in the voter ID lawsuit, NEOCH v. Blackwell. I don't have a copy of the order yet, but I am told that the judge specifically ruled that Chandra's act of sending an e-mail to all 88 boards of elections last Friday, attaching court documents and urging compliance with the consent order and agreed enforcement order in the case, constituted neither contempt of court nor a violation of attorney disciplinary rules. The court did scold Chandra about taking that unilateral step to secure compliance with the court's orders, and he agreed to refrain from doing so in the future.

I hope to add more detail when available.

Sen: John Ryan Provides Blow-by-Blow Account of Campaign

John Ryan, who took a leave of absence from his position as Executive Secretary of the Cleveland AFL-CIO to run the U.S. Senate campaign of Sherrod Brown (D-Avon), has posted a lengthy, detailed description of the race at Huffington Post.

Historically, he compares the race to Howard Metzenbaum ousting Bob Taft in the wake of Watergate in 1976, which was in fact the last time that an incumbent Ohio Senator lost. Much of the essay is devoted to Brown's "put the middle class first" message, which eclipsed so-called values issues and resonated all across Ohio, even in rural areas. Together with an emphasis on practical strategies to reach rural and small-town Ohioans (bus tours, radio interviews, and small-venue appearances by spouse and family members as surrogates), the middle class message helped Brown outgain 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry all across the state, but especially in counties that went strongly for Bush. Brown didn't win many of those counties outright, but he gained a lot of votes there by losing more narrowly than Kerry. Partnering with gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland in the latter's southeastern Ohio base also helped greatly in that area.

The best part of the essay is the chronology of the ad war. Despite being outspent overall, Brown succeeded by having stronger, more message-oriented ads; punching back hard on national security; and emphasizing Brown's distinctive voice and demeanor. Bottom line, people like how Brown looks and sounds while Mike DeWine's more personal ads (speaking directly to the camera from his porch, living room and kitchen) were a disaster. DeWine also flubbed two of his negative ads, using a doctored photo of the World Trade Center in his early 9/11-themed attack ad and exaggerating a nonpayment-of-taxes incident in a late attack ad (to the extent that many TV stations stopped airing it).

Near the conclusion Ryan argues that Brown's success provides a model not just for other progressive legislative candidates, but for 2008 presidential hopefuls looking to carry the critical swing state of Ohio.

Of course, I was disappointed to find no mention of blogs or the internet. I should think that the unhappy episode of Paul Hackett's brief primary campaign and the role of the netroots in healing the resulting rift in the base would deserve at least a mention. Oh, well. Still a very interesting, informative account.

Ohio Senate: Hints About 2008

Today the Columbus Dispatch has a few thoughts about Ohio Senate races in 2008:
* Republicans now hold 21 seats, Democrats hold 12. Of 16 seats up for election in 2008, 13 are held by Republicans. That's a lot of defense for the GOP to play, particularly since seven of those Republicans are term-limited. That means that those seven will either be open seats or in some cases perhaps held by interim appointees yet to be identified. Just for the record, the three Democratic seats to be contested in 2008 will definitely include two appointees (Marc Dann's replacement in the 32nd District and Charlie Wilson's replacement in the 30th) along with veteran Kimberly Zurz in the 28th.

* Although not term-limited, Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton) of the 20th District "will again be a prime target." Padgett held off a challenge from former Middle East hostage Terry Anderson in 2004 (in a singularly nasty campaign), but this year she was "battered in an unsuccessful congressional run [against Zack Space (D-Dover) for Bob Ney's former 18th Congressional District seat] as questions surfaced about her personal bankruptcy." According to the story, "Democrats see a high-quality challenger in Rep. Jennifer Garrison of Marietta, though it’s unknown if she will run. Garrison surprised many with an upset win in 2004 and then crushed her GOP challenger this month by 42 points." Garrison's opponent was Donald Gadd, Mayor of Byesville.

* Sen. Robert F. Spada (R-North Royalton) of the 24th District will be term-limited, "though don’t be surprised if this is not an open seat come 2008." The Dispatch doesn't identify any potential candidates. The only Democratic state representative in that suburban senate district is newly-elected Jennifer Brady (D-Westlake) of the 16th House District. Would the Democratic candidate be a present or former Cuyahoga County official? Veteran Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) of the 18th House District seems a more likely contender on the Republican side than newly-elected Josh Mandel (R-Lyndhurst) of the 17th House District, although outgoing Rep. Jim Trakas (R-Independence) of the 17th seems like another possiblity.

* Sen. Randy Gardner (R) of the 2nd District is also term-limited in 2008, "perhaps offering a tempting challenge for state Rep. Chris Redfern [D-Catawba Island, 60th Dist.], the Ohio Democratic Party chairman who also is facing term limits. Asked recently, Redfern only noted that he won re-election this year by 27 points, his biggest margin ever." Hmmm.

Proposal for Credit Reporting Reform Ballot Initiative

John Clifford, a reader of this blog, contacted me about his idea for an Ohio ballot initiative to stop credit reporting abuses. "I hate credit reports and I have decided to start a grass roots Ohio Ballot Initiative," he wrote. "70% of all credit reports contain errors. The system was designed to the maximum benefit of the lender and the detriment of the borrower." As for his proposed changes, he adds: "This is a direct challenge to the arrogance and omnipotent attitude of the lenders. This will help to level the playing field for the borrowers. I need help putting this together. Do you know anyone who has similar views or expertise in this area?"

Well, I don't, but I'm sure that some of my readers do. Interested parties should leave a comment or send me an e-mail at yellowdogsammy-at-hotmail-dot-com. Here is Clifford's thinking on the matter so far (and I have to say, there are some excellent ideas here):

Ohio Ballot Initiative: Credit Reporting Reform

(1) Ban all credit scoring.

(2) Ban “inquires” on credit report. Why: Its no one’s business where and when you apply for credit. The consumer is punished for multiple inquires when shopping multiple lenders for the best deal.

(3) Time limits for making corrections. In state servicing companies and credit bureaus have 30 days to correct any errors. Out of state lenders have 24 hours to make corrections if they receive an email request to make a correction.

(4) Special prosecutor. Appointed by governor to extradite out of state lenders and credit bureaus that violate the rights of Ohioans under this new law.

(5) All history on accounts can date back only 24 months. Includes foreclosures and bankruptcies. However, criminals convicted for white collar/ mortgage fraud will have that data on the report for 5 years. Why: If someone gets their credit damaged by job loss or divorce, then they should not be punished for 7 years.

(6) Can’t report anything late unless it has gone 60 days. Why: If you simply forget or screw up you should not be punished.

(7) Can’t call people and harass them for payment until 25th of the month.

(8) Out of state lenders can’t reject an appraisal from a licensed Ohio appraiser. Except in cases of obvious fraud.

(9) You can pull your own credit report for free at any time.

Marie Wilson to Speak at OSU Next Wednesday, Nov. 29th

Marie Wilson of The White House Project, a pioneer in breaking down barriers to women in the political arena and shifting society's political focus "from gender to agenda," will be speaking at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, November 29th, at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University.

Jill of Writes Like She Talks recently published an excellent three-part interview with Wilson, whose organization runs the Vote, Run, Lead political training program in four states and is considering bringing it to Ohio in advance of the 2008 election. Jill helped connect Wilson to the campaign of Secretary of State-elect Jennifer Brunner and hopes to arrange a Meet the Bloggers interview with Wilson in the beginning of 2007.

"Given that two women candidates in each of two Congressional districts continue to refuse to concede their races until all provisional votes are counted, and that Jennifer Brunner will be the first female Secretary of State, and third in line to the Governor," Jill said in an e-mail about the upcoming event at OSU, "I think we can say that Ohio has made some amazing strides in being a model for eliminating gender as an election issue, and replacing it with agenda once and for all."

I highly recommend Jill's interview, and the speech at OSU next week.

UPDATE: RSVP required; details and much more information on As Ohio Goes.

Monday, November 20

Chandra Faces Possible Contempt of Court Sanction in Voter ID Litigation

The Plain Dealer is reporting that Cleveland attorney Subodh Chandra must appear before U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, November 21st, to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court for sending an e-mail message to all 88 county boards of election on Friday without prior consent of opposing counsel or approval by the court.

The judge scheduled tomorrow's hearing in response to a motion filed by lawyers for the Secretary of State and Attorney General. In a 17-page responsive pleading filed on behalf of Chandra today, Chandra takes sole responsiblity for the e-mail, concedes that it was "hasty, ill-considered and inappropriate" and a "mistake," and apologizes to the court and opposing counsel. Without trying to justify or excuse the mistake, Chandra argues that the e-mail was a well-intentioned (though misguided) reaction to exigent circumstances, i.e., reports of boards personnel not properly applying the court's prior orders about counting provisional ballots on the eve of Friday's deadline for accepting supplemental information from voters. (Specifically, voters were being told to submit information after the Friday deadline, not before.) Chandra also notes that there was some lack of clarity about whether the boards of election were parties to the voter ID litigation, that he had communicated with the boards by e-mail with the approval of the Secretary of State in a previous situation, that his e-mail urged boards of election to consult with their attorneys, and that he forwarded the e-mail to opposing counsel in the voter ID litigation.

Courts have broad discretion in the area of contempt of court. The judge has great latitude in deciding whether Chandra's action rises to the level of contempt, and if so what sanction is appropriate.

UPDATE: For the record, the reported improper actions by boards of election were not limited to misinforming voters about when to submit identification information, but also included adding additional eligibility requirements for provisional ballots on top of those explicitly agreed by the parties and ordered by the court. The intent of the court's orders on counting provisional ballots appeared to be in serious jeopardy.

Posts today at the Plain Dealer blog Openers and Right Angle Blog have unfairly mischaracterized Chandra's e-mail. The former says that Chandra "gave instructions" on how to count provisional ballots, and the latter says his e-mail "purport[s] to provide legal advice." This is plainly not the case. Chandra's e-mail is titled "Re: FW: Directive 2006-90 Consent Order Regarding Counting of Provisional Ballots and Observers" and in the body of the message Chandra refers the boards to the attachments (explicitly including the court's actual orders) and urges them to consult their own attorneys. That is neither giving instructions nor providing legal advice.

Also, it is important to point out that the county boards of elections are separate legal entities from the Secretary of State, and plaintiff's attorneys had been in frequent contact with the boards in the run-up to and during the litigation. There was no indication that the boards were represented by government lawyers in the lawsuit in Columbus (except the Franklin County board, as to which Chandra sent the e-mail to the assistant prosecutors who had appeared in the lawsuit instead of directly to the board), so there was a basis for his assumption that he could directly contact the boards under the circumstances.

In any event, this is a situation where the conduct in question was undertaken not for any improper purpose but to effectuate the court's order and to protect his clients' rights.

Noe Sentenced to 18 Years

Toledo-based Republican fund-raiser and powerbroker Tom Noe received an 18 year sentence in Lucas County Common Pleas Court today. This sentence, resulting from corrupt activity and aggravated theft charges relating to his management of a $50 million rare coin fund for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, will be served consecutively to a 27-month term in federal prison for channeling money to the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign in violation of campaign finance laws.

UPDATE: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reveals that Noe spurned a plea bargain that would have given him only 12 years on the state charges.

Noe's associate Timothy LaPointe, whose testimony was crucial to the Noe prosecution, will plead guilty to racketeering and tampering with records next Monday.

An Election Day Note From a Moderate Voter

It looks like the Republicans were largely successful in turning out conservative voters this year and persuading them to vote for Republican candidates despite their disillusionment with the Iraq War and recent scandals and corruption. Independents and moderates also turned out, however, and enough of them voted Democratic to propel the minority party to control of both chambers of Congress.

So, what were the moderates thinking? A friend forwarded me a short but interesting note written on election day by a moderate voter in Michigan with the perspective of a 35-year career in newspaper journalism. This voter belongs to the "silent generation" of those born in or after the Great Depression but before WWII. This group, which includes my parents, was strongly influenced by the mindset of the depression era, was generally too young to serve in the war, and preceded the baby boomers. My grandparents were loyal Republicans but my parents have been independents, picking and choosing between the parties, and they backed Bush in 2000 and 2004. It sounds like the author of this note is similar. I have changed the names:

I was pleased to read your keen insights, but I was especially struck by your experience in Belgium where they turned their backs on you because you are Americans. That had to come as a shock. What has become of America abroad? We liberated Belgium and the entire western European continent three generations ago, and they worshipped us for doing it. We protected them from Communist takeover.

Now we have squandered all our good will, thanks to W. and his cowboy politics. I can't imagine such a thing would have happened, even at the depths of the Carter administration and the hostage crisis in Iran.

More importantly, it speaks volumes about the future. How do we fix this mess? It cannot be done overnight. A reputation and credibility can be lost quickly but it takes much, much longer to repair it. What are we reaping from this madman in Washington? The arrogance, the bullheadedness, the blind allegiance to fatally flawed principles can do nothing but spread misery to generations yet unborn.

We have government without a heart, without a soul, without a conscience. I'm sounding more and more like a Marxist radical, but actually I'm not. I'd even vote Republican if we had Republicans like Dwight Eisenhower, Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller, Bill Scranton and George Romney. They, however, are an extinct species.

Today's vote can change much. Or it can change nothing. The follow through is what matters.

- Roger
These voters are no great fans of the Democratic Party. Their support is conditional, and it may well be temporary if they don't see real leadership and the beginning of a genuine attempt to repair the damage over the next two years.

Ohio Sen 32nd: Replacing Dann (D) is Causing Trouble

A few weeks before the election I spoke to a voter in Trumbull County while doing some volunteer phonebanking. "Trouble County, that's what we call it," she said. "We're always making trouble for the folks in Columbus."

Indeed. There's trouble in next week's vote to name a replacement for attorney-general elect State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township), whose 32nd Ohio Senate District comprises Trumbull and Ashtabula counties.

The Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus sent out a press advisory today indicating that the minority leadership for the current session will interview candidates on Monday, November 27th, and select a single preferred candidate. The twelve Democratic State Senators for the upcoming session will hold an up-or-down vote on the preferred candidate on Tuesday, November 28th. (The formal vote on the leadership team, already determined for all practical purposes last Friday, will also be held that day.) Spokesperson Amanda Conn told the Youngstown Vindicator that if the preferred candidate fails to win approval from the caucus, it will proceed to vote on the second ranked candidate.

Trumbull provides 70% of the overall votes and 77% of the Democratic votes in the 32nd District. (Dann carried Ashtabula County over challenger Gary Pasqulaone (R) by just 14 votes out of 42,246 votes cast in 2004). On Friday, Trumbull County Democratic Party officials heard three-minute presentations from five candidates to replace Dann and voted to recommend three of them to the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus (none ranked above any other):
* Two-time Congressional candidate Capri Cafaro (D-Liberty Township), who established a residence in Lorain County for purposes of her primary campaign in the 13th Congressional District this year but says that her real home is and always has been Trumbull County;

* State Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood (D-Niles) of the 65th Ohio House District in Trumbull County; and

* Former State Sen. Anthony J. Latell (D-Girard) of Trumbull County.
Also seeking recommendation were former city council member Sherry Cox-Calloway (D-Warren) and Matthew J. Cataline (D-Hubbard). The other state representative in Trumbull County is Randy Law (R-Warren), who just lost his seat to challenger Tom Letson (D-Warren). Ashtabula County is represented by George Distel (D-Conneaut), term-limited in 2008, who has said that he is content to end his legislative career in the House.

On the residency issue, the Ohio Constitution requires state legislators to reside in the district for one year before election, but Warren Law Director Greg Hicks said that the law allows multiple residency and he sees no reason why Cafaro should be disqualified on that basis. The Secretary of State' office has indicated that the Ohio Senate should make the final determination on the residency issue.

Without interviewing candidates, the Ashtabula County Democratic Party recommended the same three candidates as Trumbull County late on Friday, noting that "after serious discussions with several eminently qualified Ashtabula County elected officials, it was their respective desires to continue to serve their constituencies." However, the Ashtabula Democrats expressed the strong wish that whoever may be appointed will work to promote economic growth and job creation in both counties, noting Ashtabula's potential for producing grain-based bio-fuels and wind power.

Calling her "a bright person with a genuine desire to serve in public office," who "has to go where the opportunity arises," the Lorain Morning Journal spoke in favor of Cafaro's appointment on Sunday. She also has the backing of Dann, Warren Mayor Michael O'Brien, and several labor groups (UAW Local 1714, IBEW Local 573, and the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council). These supporters argue that Cafaro has done well in her Congressional bids (she won 47% of the vote in Ashtabula County while losing badly to Rep. Steve LaTourette in the 14th District in 2004, and she may well have won the primary in the 13th District this year if Betty Sutton (D-Copley Township) had not secured the backing of the AFL-CIO and Emily's List) and that she is well-positioned to win in 2008, an issue bound up with her personal fortune and the backing of her wealthy family.

Several news accounts indicate that it was Dann who suggested the Ohio Senate position to Cafaro last summer, not the other way around. However, Cafaro has pursued the concept with unswerving zeal. A possible deal to put Cafaro in Stabile Harwood's House seat after the latter's elevation to the Senate was apparently scuttled by Cafaro, and she has diligently lobbied lawmakers and Democratic party officials in pursuit of the position.

However, Youngstown Vindicator columnist Bertram da Souza wrote a scathing piece yesterday, questioning Cafaro's bid on numerous points. He brings up the fact that Cafaro received immunity from prosecution in order to testify in a bribery case relating to disgraced former Congressman James Traficant (D-Youngstown), that her father J.J. Cafaro was convicted of giving Traficant an "unlawful gratuity," that she attended the Republican National Convention as an 18-year-old in 1996, and that she refused to be interviewed by the Vindicator editorial board in connection with either of her Congressional bids. The Warren Tribune Chronicle expressed its preference for Stabile Harwood in an editorial as well, and threw more cold water on Cafaro's candidacy today in a story entitled "You, Capri Cafaro, Are No John Kennedy". That article suggests that Cafaro's state senate bid is merely a detour on her road to Congress. The plan, it reports, calls for Cafaro to retain the state seat in 2008 and then run for the 17th Ohio Congressional District seat in 2010 when Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ryan) runs for the U.S. Senate.

Reporter Stephen Oravecz casts doubt on every step of the plan. As to next week's appointment, Oravecz suggests that Democrats would do well to avoid the appearance of pay-to-play corruption by not appointing Cafaro at all, intimating that Dann's endorsement of Cafaro appears to result from the ample campaign contributions he received from the Cafaro family the past two years. On the re-election bid in 2008, there is the cautionary example of former State Rep. Chris Verich (D-Warren), appointed to the then-66th District seat to replace his brother Michael but ousted in the next election cycle by former Warren mayor Daniel Sferra (D). As to the 2010 U.S. Senate race, Ryan may decide to pass (especially if he gets the House Appropriations Committee seat he wants), and in any event there are other formidable potential candidates in Lt. Governor-elect Lee Fisher (D-Shaker Heights), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), and Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman (D).

Next week's selection process is, without a doubt, a dilemma. Stabile Harwood has earned fair consideration, winning her district with 65% of the vote in 2002 and retaining it with 71% in 2004 and 79% in 2006. She points out that 41% of the Democratic voters in the 32nd Senate District reside in her House district. However, Cafaro's ability to self-finance her campaigns is hard to ignore, and nobody wants to alienate the deep-pocketed and politically-active Cafaro family. While Capri Cafaro has not held office (yet), she has been an active volunteer with organizations advocating for the elderly, and she has at least demonstrated resiliency in her desire to hold public office.

Still, the nagging question of an appearance of impropriety is the crux of the matter. The Cafaros have given millions to candidates and committees from both parties, but they were particularly active in supporting Marc Dann this time around. A look at OhioMoneyTree.org shows that the Cafaros gave him $6,000 in 2004, $15,000 in 2005, and $30,500 in 2006, in addition to the $5,000 they contributed to support Dann's Senate campaign in 2003. The Cafaros also contributed to Stabile Harwood and Latell, but in much smaller amounts (Stabile Harwood got $850 during the years 2004-2006, Latell got $1,600 from 1995 to 1999).

Dann and Cafaro vehemently deny that campaign contributions have anything to do with Dann's endorsement. Dann praised Stabile Harwood but said he prefers Cafaro on the merits, and Dann campaign spokesman Leo Jennings pointed out that other families contributed more than the Cafaros to Dann's attorney general bid. However, Stabile Harwood told the Youngstown Vindicator that Dann "told her numerous times that he would endorse the person 'who helped him the most.'" Stabile Harwood hosted a fundraiser for Dann and gave $1,000 to his campaign, but could not match the Cafaros' financial support. Jennings said if Stabile Harwood's statement is a characterization that Dann would support whoever gave him the most money, it's "absolutely and completely false."

The issue, however, is not whether Dann actually chose to support Cafaro in return for financial support, but the appearance that this may have been the case. In his campaign for attorney general, Dann has pointedly asked supporters to hold him and other Democratic office-holders to the highest ethical standards, and the Democrats generally have pledged to clean up state government. Appointing Capri Cafaro to the Ohio Senate may not be the best road to the moral high ground, given the unsavory appearance of the thing. At a minimum, the Democratic leadership ought to put Dann's endorsement and the whole issue of Cafaro family political contributions to one side, and judge the candidates strictly on their other attributes.

Thursday, November 16

Dr. John Green Meets the Bloggers

Last night I attended a Meet the Bloggers interview at the Crowne Plaza Quaker Square (an intriguing hotel constructed from 19th century grain silos) in Akron with John C. Green, Ph.D., Director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron and an expert on political parties, campaign financing, and religion and politics. Other bloggers present were Redhorse of Psychobilly Democrat, Kyle Kutuchief of The Chief Source (whose post on the event is here), Pho of Pho's Akron Pages, Tim Ferris, Gloria Ferris, George Nemeth of Brewed Fresh Daily, and another blogger named Ryan LaFountain whose blog name I didn't quite catch of Bloggin' Ryan.

I arrived in Akron in a timely fashion (har-rumph) but was late to the interview due to taking a wrong turn off the highway, then driving around downtown Akron in a lashing rainstorm, struggling against a network of one-way streets that all go the wrong way (how do they manage that?). When I arrived Green was talking about how the religious left really stepped up during this election cycle. Historically, he pointed out, most religious involvement in politics during the 20th century was on the left. Religious conservatives were largely inactive until very late in the century. Religious liberals had championed civil rights, opposition to war, women's rights, and other left-leaning causes for many years. When the religious right stepped forward, however, the voices on the left became less noticeable. It is possible that there was a generational change of leadership involved. The religious right, he said, benefitted at the end of the century from the diversification of the media, with televangelists and conservative talk radio boosting the right. It was George W. Bush that provoked a resurgence of the religious left, although it took a while.

Green pointed out that the 2000 presidential race was largely perceived as a contest between two "moderates." Both Bush and Gore talked about religion during their campaigns, and Bush used the slogans of "compassionate conservatism" and being a "uniter" rather than a "divider." Bush's talk of federal funding for faith-based initiatives was exciting to religious groups on the left as well as the right. Religious leftists and moderates later became disillusioned with Bush due to three things: their perception that the faith-based initiatives concept was just a cynical effort to get votes, dismay over the Iraq War, and particularly Bush's support for a federal anti-gay marriage amendment. The last of those things came as a surprise because Bush had previously praised the Supreme Court's decision in the Lawrence case, striking down anti-sodomy laws.

Green believes that the religious left received a real wake-up call from Bush's re-election in 2004, when they had expected Kerry to win. They were shocked by that loss into speaking up, and by 2006 had become a significant presence in the political landscape. The 2006 election differed from 2004 by having more competition for the religious vote, with religious left and moderate voices making themselves heard and Democratic candidates talking more openly about values and going after religious voters.

Green pointed out that Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland is a good example of this trend among Democrats. Strickland didn't do that well among the religious right, but that wasn't his target. He wanted to win the support of religious moderates who had voted for Bush, and it worked. Strickland always talked about religion in the context of his own life, and that lent him a sense of authenticity that voters respected. Without authenticity, a politician who talks about religion seems to be merely pandering.

Green conceded that the religious right was discontented with Bush in this election cycle (partly due to Bush's failure to deliver on the right's social agenda, but more because of scandals like Mark Foley and the Abramaoff affair, which involves Christian conservative leader Ralph Reed), but the Republicans managed to hold the core group of evangelical voters together and turn them out strongly. They managed this by persuading them that whatever problems they had with Bush, the Democrats would be worse. However, the Republicans lost ground among the "fringe" of Catholics and mainline Protestants, who were more ready to vote Democratic this year.

We talked a lot about negative advertising, with Green agreeing with the proposition that it is so prevalent because it works. However, the way that they work is more by turning out the base (i.e, scaring them into voting) than by changing minds. The effect of a negative ad on the opponent's supporters is not to win them over, but just to make them wonder about a candidate that they thought they liked. Such ads may eventually cause people to be repulsed, and thus demombilize some voters. However, the effectiveness of negative ads declines as a result of over-saturation. At some point people start to just tune them out.

Another topic brought up was incumbents running as though they were challengers (the 3rd Ohio Senate District race being an egregious example). Green insisted that this phenomenon is not new, although it was done to a greater degree this year.

Green said he thought Sen. Mike DeWine's campaign "got away from him." The ratcheting up of negative ads came after the race was essentially over; they were "hail mary" ads. The poll averages bounced around until the last month of the race, he said. Ads in the summer did seem to move the numbers back and forth, but it was the Foley scandal that seemed to mark the ultimate downturn for DeWine. Although the incumbent senator was not directly involved, that scandal solidified public unease with Republican rule.

The 27th Ohio Senate District race between incumbent Kevin Coughlin (R) and challenger Judy Hanna (D) got some attention. Green remarked that Hanna was not very well known, and her ads helped but not enough. He doesn't think she was a particularly effective candidate. He agreed that Coughlin's barrage of attack ads probably helped raise her name recognition somewhat. Green noted that this is the second close, nasty race for Coughlin.

Green agreed with the idea that the extreme negativity of Republican advertising may have been an attempt to simply kick up dust and confuse the situation. "There was no effective answer to some of the criticisms that Democrats raised," he said, such as government corruption scandals. In the Ohio Senate and Ohio House races Green feels that the Republicans were somewhat successful in creating the impression that "everyone is bad," thus blunting Democratic criticisms.

In the 15th Congressional District race, Green does not feel that challenger Mary Jo Kilroy (D) hurt herself by attacking Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) explicitly over the Foley scandal. He thought that line of attack was probably helpful to Kilroy. The problem, he said, is that the district leans heavily Republican, and this is where good Republican turnout was successful in aiding an incumbent. (He noted, however, that Kilroy has a genuine chance of winning after absentee and provisional ballots are counted.) Republican turnout was actually very good nationwide, and pretty good in Ohio, although it lagged somewhat in a few states, including Pennsylvania. Many Republican incumbents lost by very small margins, a consequence of the good turnout.

Asked about the proportion of voters who are religious conservatives, Green said that it is about 20% both in Ohio and in the nation as a whole. In fact, he said, the only way that Ohio's electorate is really different than the U.S. overall is in having a lower Hispanic population.

Green disputes the current Republican talking point that the majority of newly elected Democrats are conservative, marking a national turn to the right. The Democrats did better in this election by having a more diverse array of candidates (including some that are moderate or conservative on social issues), but it was economic populism and foreign policy that carried the day. As a specific example, the pro-life Bob Casey (D) and conservative Rick Santorum (R) were basically tied on social issues in the Pennsylvania senate race, so the focus shifted to other issues. A lot of Democrats in 2006 were socially conservative but populist in their economic views.

Asked about trends in the next two years, Green summarized this election as being about performance. Americans are unhappy with the preformance of Republicans at the national and state level. Both parties need to respond to this. If Democrats can perform better than Republicans, then they will be in great shape in 2008. If the Republicans can shift gears and persuade the public that they can do things differently and better than before, that will help them. The imponderables are uncontrollable factors like the Iraq War. If as it appears there is no way out of Iraq, and therefore nobody has a good solution, the effect is hard to predict.

Green sees the 2008 election as a wide-open race. The possibilities include the emergence of a third party. (He has even heard talk of a McCain/Lieberman third party ticket.) People are tired of partisanship, so there is potential reward for working together, but working together can be risky as well. It promises, in any event, to be fascinating.

UPDATE: The Akron Beacon Journal published a short interview with Dr. Green on November 20th.

Sen: Brown (D) Campaign as Model for Progressives in 2008

Robert Borosage has a good diary at MyDD analyzing the race and arguing that the unapologetic economic populism of senator-elect Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) is a model for other progressive candidates to follow in 2008, even in socially conservative states:
Brown's victory shows Democrats that a hard-hitting economic populist campaign can carry an unapologetic anti-war social liberal to victory over a tough conservative assault on terror and taxes, liberalism and national security. Brown's victory came in a state suffering from the loss of manufacturing jobs where the economy was the most important issue, although the campaigns probably contributed to that. But the 2006 election took place when the Bush economy was about at its best - having mortgaged the store at home and abroad. With the bust of the housing bubble starting to set in, 2008 is quite likely to take place in an economy suffering from stagnation, if not worse. Progressives should take a good look at Brown's race.
This is a really important point. I asked Sherrod Brown the day after the election if he thought his approach could translate to other states, or if it was instead too tied to conditions on the ground in Ohio (bad economy, corrupt state government). He identified candidates in other states who have run successfully on the same issues that he emphasized.

The Republicans have been engaged in an intensive PR campaign since the election, trying to convince the nation that the newly elected Democrats are mostly moderate-to-conservative, so that the overall result can be read as a shift to the right. It is utter nonsense. Although there are some prominent examples of social conservatives among the Democratic victors, there is also a broad consensus on populist economic themes like raising the minimum wage, rolling back the tax cuts for the wealthy, and reducing the influence of big corporations on government, not to mention opposition to the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and Bush's cutting of benefits for veterans, students, and the poor. The way to win elections in 2008 is not to shift to the right, but to speak directly to the middle class about progressive positions on issues they care about.

Secty State: Must-Read Essay by Brunner (D) at Huff Post

Secretary of state-elect Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) speaks from the heart in a piece published at Huffington Post yesterday:
I've faced and examined my fears and used them to better understand how I must live my life. I believe that as humans, we must love and care for one another and serve each other, and that this is our highest calling. When this is the focus, it becomes easier to examine fears and understand how they can deter us from our calling. It also becomes easier to examine our fears with objectivity and learn from them.

Like many others, I've overcome obstacles great and small, and have tried to use my experiences to encourage and help others to reach their full potential. I became a candidate for Secretary of State of Ohio, because I saw as a judge how public service allows a person to do much to help others, serving the best interests of family, faith and community. I learned early on that by speaking the truth and not being afraid to do the right thing or make the tough call--and working hard for what you believe in--you can achieve what you seek, in this particular case, preserving democracy in Ohio and for this country.
Read the whole thing.

Provisional Ballot Update

Yesterday I spoke to Subodh Chandra, one of the lawyers for plaintiffs in the voter ID litigation, and got a little of the back story on the Agreed Enforcement Order entered two days ago.

The litigation team in that case received numerous reports on election day and afterward about violations of the law and the November 1st Consent Order on how the voter ID requirements were to be applied in the general election. Confused poll workers were requiring voters to cast provisional ballots in situations where the identification presented clearly qualified for a regular ballot:
* Valid Ohio driver's license with former address.

* Public school identification card (qualifies as "other government document" so long as it has voter's name and current address).

* Paycheck or utility bill.

* Concealed carry permit (another example of "other government document").
Accordingly, the litigation team brought to a status conference before U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley on Thursday, November 9th, a proposed consent order that would grant a reasonable, narrowly-tailored remedy to correct these violations. What they asked for was that every board of elections in the state, on request by observers to the counting of provisional ballots, would be required to provide a list of all provisional ballots that the board proposed to reject, with reasons for the rejection and access to (or a copy of) the envelope in which the provisional ballot was cast. The proposal was for a daily list, but a list at the end of the counting would have been satisfactory so long as the observers were given time to respond before the final decision was made. The list wouldn't be all provisional ballots, just those the board intended to reject.

Chandra pointed out to me that there is nothing inherently partisan about this proposal. It is based simply on the idea that every vote should be counted, i.e., that the voter ID requirement shouldn't be an impediment to the counting of valid votes. To the dismay of the litigation team, the attorneys for the Secretary of State and the Attorney General complained that the proposed order was too burdensome, and even went so far as to argue that there should be no remedy at all. Lawyers from the Franklin County prosecutor's office, ostensibly on hand to represent the county board of elections, protested that no remedy was necessary because the violations weren't intentional, and the other government attorneys seemed to go along with this outrageous position. Of course, it doesn't matter if the deprivation of a constitutional right is intentional or negligent, it still must be preserved or the right is meaningless.

The government attorneys tried several times to walk away from the negotiations that followed, but the judge heroically forced some kind of agreement out of the contentious situation. (If there had been no agreed order the plaintiffs could have sought a ruling by the judge, but that ruling could have been appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals with unpredictable results.) The government lawyers eventually backed down from their extreme position of "no remedy" and agreed that provisional ballots that should have been cast as regular votes (because the voters presented ID acceptable under the Consent Order) "should automatically be counted as regular ballots," and that observers would be provided on request with a list of provisional ballots that the boards intended to reject and reasons for such rejection "only in those cases where the proposed rejection is as a result of the application of voter identification provisions of Title 35 of the Ohio Revised Code and this Court's November 1, 2006 Consent Order."

Chandra considers this only a partial victory for voters. The order does not necessarily insure that all provisional ballots will be counted in the full light of day. Observers have the opportunity to object, but only as to provisional ballots on the list, and the boards will put together this list on their own without producing the envelopes that reflect voter information. Observers are supposed to take election officials at their word as far as the accuracy of the list, but such officials have already made mistakes in the voter ID process leading up to this order. As Chandra pointed out, a question that really needs to be asked is why the government attorneys, who profess their agreement that every vote should be counted, fought to shield any part of the counting process from full scrutiny? Whose interests are they really representing?

Moreover, this episode makes very clear why we should all be gratified that we have a new Secretary of State and Attorney General. Chandra pointed out that it is unimaginable that Ohio's new officials in these positions, former judge Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) and State Sen. Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) respectively, would ever make an effort to shield violations of constitutional rights. The government lawyers here resisted complete accountability and complete transparency, which serves only to diminish public confidence in the integrity of the voting process.

Meanwhile, efforts by Congressional candidates Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Columbus) and Victoria Wulsin (R-Indian Hill) to insure the counting of all provisional ballots continue, as reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer political blog Politics Extra and today's Chillicothe Gazette. Wulsin is trying to overcome a 2,865 deficit out of some 8,600 uncounted ballots, while Kilroy has 3,536 to make up out of close to 20,000 uncounted ballots.

One of the critical dimensions in this effort concerns voters who did not write the last four digits of their social security number on the envelope containing their provisional ballot. Wulsin's campaign says that poll workers often failed to ask for the numbers, as required by law. The Wulsin and Kilroy camps are engaged in a massive effort to call provisional voters and encourage them to call their Boards of Elections by tomorrow's deadline for providing the missing information. (There was a report that Wulsin and Kilroy had also filed a lawsuit to require boards of election to provide a list of provisional ballots, but the election law blog at Moritz College of Law indicates that this is not true.)

The Enquirer blog reports that Barry Bennett, chief of staff for Rep. "Mean Jean" Schmidt (R-Loveland), asserted that "voters can’t go back and update their ballots or provide missing forms of ID." This is just plain wrong. The Secretary of State's web site states the correct rule this way: "A person who casts a provisional ballot and does not provide acceptable proof of identity at the time of voting is allowed to provide such proof within 10 days after the election, in accordance with law." All provisional voters who did not provide the last four digits of their social security number when casting their provisional ballot should call their board of elections today or tomorrow.

UPDATE: Victoria Wulsin and her campaign manager Mary Huttlinger held a press conference this morning with State Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Cincinnati) and John Smith, the mayor of Silverton, Ohio, to discuss provisional ballots and call for the counting of every vote. Smith is one of the thousands of voters required to cast a provisional ballot on November 7th. From the press release:
The speakers will explain the provisional ballot process, discuss the increase in provisional ballots caused by confusion at the polls in the wake of House Bill 3, and address the Schmidt campaign's potentially illegal public statements misleading provisional voters about their rights.
2nd UPDATE: Alphonse Gerhardstein, an attorney for Wulsin, has fired off a letter to Schmidt chief of staff Barry Bennett demanding a retraction of his incorrect statement to the Enquirer, citing to the relevant provision of the statute (Ohio Rev. Code sec. 3505.181(B)(8)). Also, the Ohio Democratic party has issued a press release denouncing Bennett's comment:
“Bennett’s insistence that people cannot update their information for their provisional ballot is just wrong, and he should be ashamed that he could disenfranchise voters by giving out and disseminating false information. As Schmidt’s Chief of Staff, he should know better,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern. “Voters can provide missing forms of ID to boards of elections until tomorrow."