Who's Stealing Ohio?

Patrick Ruffini posts the audio of Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s Press Secretary defending the decision not to allow poll watchers to observe Ohio’s scandal-ridden early voting:

At least 11 times, Ortega repeats some version of the phrase ‘it’s not provided for under Ohio law.’ Elsewhere, Ortega says that one reason Ohio’s new system is such a good one is that “No one ever wants to see qualified voters turned away.”

In light of the desire of Secretary Brunner to ensure that no qualified voter is turned away, it’s stunning to see her using her discretion under the law to use a rule ‘not provided for under Ohio law’ to throw out potentially hundreds of thousand of absentee ballots from McCain supporters:

Over the summer, Ohio Republicans mailed 1 million absentee ballot applications to likely GOP voters to ensure they vote even if they don’t turn out on Election Day.

Last month, Brunner said those requests would not be accepted if the applicants had not checked a box in the form that affirmed the voters were a “qualified voter.”

The check box wasn’t required by state law. The state’s official application for an absentee ballot treats the voter’s signature as sufficient.

The GOP apparently added the check box in error, creating two places for voters to affirm they are qualified. Brunner’s decision means they must enter both or be rejected.

“While state law does not require a check box, the McCain-Palin campaign designed its form to require that voters check a box to affirmatively state they are qualified,” Brunner said in a statement last month.

Jeff Ortega, assistant director to the secretary of state, says Brunner had to take notice of the added box.

So to sumamrize, Secretary Brunner says that nothing in Ohio law requires election observers for early voting, so she is forbidding their presence. At the same time, she says nothing in Ohio law requires a checkbox for eligibility, so she’s throwing those ballots out.

And it’s all in the interest of making sure that no qualified voter is turned away? Is it too much to ask that the national media look into the effort of a Democratic official to hopelessly stack the deck against Republicans?

Update: I see that Jim Geraghty [looks at the Ohio election law] (http://campaignspot.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NWNlZTRlOWU2MmYwMmE4ZTJhMmVhOWEyNzdjZDU3NTY=) and concludes that Brunner’s decision on McCain’s absentee ballots is supported by the law. He notes that Ohio election law requires ‘a statement that you are a qualified elector.’ The article cited by Geraghty does not seem to address the question of whether the signature of the voter is (or should be) sufficient to satisfy that requirement — as it reportedly is in the state’s own application.

Update II: The Ohio Supreme Court today [overruled Brunner] (http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/localnews/stories/2008/10/02/supcoforms.html?sid=101) on the matter of absentee ballots, and directed local Boards of Election to accept them and count them.