Ohio: Vote Early, Vote Often

“Vote Early and Often” takes on new meaning in the twisted and abused registration and voting process now underway in Ohio this year from September 30 through October 6. It is not as if Ohio, like Florida, has not seen its share of voting challenges in past elections, but it appears that they are out to outdo their past reputation to create a voting result that is not legit or reflective of the state’s residents.

  1. A person can register to vote through October 6th, even without identification. You simply need to state that you are a citzen of the United States, will be 18 on or before the election date, a resident of Ohio for at least 30 days by election date, are not incarerated for a felony, not delcared incompetent for voting purposes, or have not been permanently disenfranchised for violations of the election laws. Although a valid Ohio driver’s license is requested for identification, one is not required. If not available, the last four digits of your social security number is requested, but not required. Thereafter, nothing is required but your signature (Voter Registration Instructions, Ohio Revised Code Section 3503.28 and Voter Registration Form).
  2. Once you’ve registered, “Any qualified Ohio voter may request and vote an absentee ballot without stating a reason.” Thus, while still at the board of elections office, as an absentee voter (no reason required) you then “request, receive and vote your ballot” (Ohio Elections & Ballot Issues: Absentee Voting)
  3. “Voters who do not have….identification, will still be able to vote by signing an affirmation swearing to the voter’s identity under penalty of election falsification and by casting a provisional ballot.” (Voter Registration Instructions, Ohio Revised Code Section 3503.28).

On August 13, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) set this up by issuing “a directive advising county elections boards that they must have procedures in place to allow voters who register to be immediately issued an absentee ballot.” (Assocated Press, New Ohio Voter Registration Rules Irk GOP). Apparently only college towns were initially implementing this directive. And the AP reported that the Obama campaign was eagerly taking advantage of this. Obama spokesman Isacc Baker is quoted saying “This is one of many ways we’ll be encouraging our supporters to skip the lines on Election Day and make sure their vote is cast early.” Reepublicans question the loophole and its inconsistent implementation–not offering the same voting opportunity to rural and working-class voters. The loophole: Normally voter registration applications are subject to review before a voter registration card is issued (disputed Ohio law says a person must be registered 30 days prior to requesting an absentee ballot). As the AP notes, this lack of security and review raises fears of “massive voting fraud.”

As if voter fraud wasn’t a concern, Secretary of State Brunner has decided that counties may use their discretion about whether to allow poll watchers or not during registration and early voting. As the Wall Street Journal reports, poll watchers have been turned away in at least one location. But poll watchers are of limited value since even if allowed to observe, they are “no longer allowed to challenge voters at polling places, but may gather information to challenge them later.” With electronic voting, that makes challenges meaningless.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Jim Petro has spoken out against Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s recent directive against poll watchers:

After October 6 through election day previously registered voters will be able to visit their local board of elections offices to vote. Again, without identification, without oversight of poll watchers.

Further undermining Ohio voting integrity, state law requires that election officials send out notices to registered voters 60 days before an election. NPR reports that as many as 600,000 were “returned as undeliverable”–e.g., the address was invalid or the named person did not reside at that address. While normally this would cause or permit challenge of the voter registration, Secretary of State Brunner decided this year that it would not. Thus, over half a million potentially fraudulent votes might be cast this year!

NPR also reports that as of September 30th, at least five lawsuits have been filed regarding Ohio’s voting process for this election. Lawsuits challenging same day registration and voting have now been thrown out. Likewise, the Wall Street Journal reports that lawsuits challenging poll watcher access have also been thrown out. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who previously pledged “complete transparency in the election process” is now fighting what she says are “expensive and time-consuming” lawsuits because of the lack of transparency she has created.

The Result?

The Obama campaign and supporters are dredging homeless shelters, halfway houses, soup kitchens, bars, and allys for potential voters. Others, like Rock-the-Vote, are hitting up high schools. Numerous reports explain how these new voters are driven to the polls, coached on how to register and vote, then driven to locations of their choosing. Without registration integrity, nor requirement to even have identification, there is no way to know if the person is legally eligible to vote, nor if they have already voted. The likely result:

  • Under age voting
  • Non-resident voting
  • Felons voting
  • Repeat voting

Yes, in Ohio this year you can vote early and often.

Please don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that every effort should be made to encourage and get eligible voters to become informed and cast their vote. But to set up a registration and voting process that does not provide security against fraudulent voting risks the integrity of the election process and the results. And then, to deny observers access to monitor the election removes the any legitimacy to the process.

I personally worked as an election precinct worker and precinct chief on behalf of the Democratic Party in Virginia for many years. We were trained by the office of elections, had rules in place to follow, had observers to monitor the process. I was very comfortable that I was part of a legitmate effort that resulted in an open and fair election. I am appalled by what is occuring at the state’s direction in Ohio.

Is the integrity of the Ohio vote being undermined?

The short answer is Yes. There are too many news and blog reports to list that tell and show problems with the voting. Will it throw the election? I don’t know. Will anyone be able to say so definitively? Probably not. But what will be undisputable is that the election results will be suspect.

Cross-posted at my blog: The Independent View