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Brunner calls summit on vote

Resource type: News

The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) |

Local, state, national elections experts will discuss what worked, what needs repair by Mark Niquette Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announced plans for a summit in Columbus to review the Nov. 4 election and recommend possible changes in Ohio’s voting process. The one-day summit, planned for early December and to be led by Lawrence Norden, counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, will include bipartisan local, state and national elections experts, Brunner said. A report then will go to Gov. Ted Strickland and the legislature summarizing what is working in state elections and what should be changed. “After this pivotal election, we have an opportunity to build on the many things that went well in this election while improving upon what we can do better,” Brunner said in a news release. It’s unclear what reception the report will get in the legislature, which rejected many proposals this year from Brunner, a first-term Democrat. While Democrats will have a majority in the Ohio House next year, Republicans retain solid control of the Senate. Legislative leaders have not said what election-related action might be taken in the upcoming lame-duck session. House Speaker Jon Husted, a Republican who is moving to the Senate and a potential challenger to Brunner in 2010, said he’s doing his own review for a major overhaul of the election process and the secretary of state’s office. “Certainly, I think the people of Ohio are sick and tired of the partisan way that our elections are being run in this state,” Husted said. The Ohio Republican Party has called Brunner the most partisan Ohio secretary of state in history. Brunner has defended her election administration and accused Republicans of attacking her and the state’s voting system for purely political reasons. Norden said in an interview yesterday that there needs to be collaboration between the political parties for the summit to be successful. “Hopefully, we can find common ground,” he said. Norden said he wants feedback from county elections officials, but he thinks one topic likely to be discussed during the summit is how the push this year for early absentee voting to reduce lines at the polls on Election Day affected the process. State law allows only one location outside a county elections board for early in-person absentee voting, and voters waited in line for hours at Franklin County Veterans Memorial and sites in other counties in the days before the election. Some elections officials are calling for more sites. Edward “Ned” Foley, director of an election-law center at Ohio State University, also suggested that Congress set a minimum standard nationwide for early voting at multiple locations. Based on the experience this fall, Matthew Damschroder, deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, is floating the idea of conducting elections in the county entirely with mail-in balloting. Of the more than 551,000 ballots cast for Tuesday’s election in the county, 42 percent were absentee ballots — and the bulk of those were sent by mail, unofficial statistics show. Another likely topic will be the increasing number of provisional ballots in Ohio, which are cast by voters who don’t have proper identification or who move and don’t update their addresses. Those ballots are counted after 10 days if a voter’s eligibility is confirmed. Although Congress mandated the ballots to prevent people from losing the right to vote by mistake, critics argue the 181,000 provisional ballots reported statewide so far from Tuesday’s election suggest that some people are being forced to vote provisionally who should be getting a regular ballot. “It was supposed to be a fail-safe, but it’s not being used that way,” said Peg Rosenfield, elections specialist for the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

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