In the 2008 election, Ohio had its typical problems, among them a high number of provisional ballots and long lines at some polling locations. So the then-secretary of state set up a series of bipartisan “election summits” on how to fix the problems. Nearly four years later, most of the recommendations haven’t been voted on by the General Assembly, much less put into action. This even though the state’s Association of Election Officials, made up of Democratic and Republican appointees to boards of election across the state, endorsed the recommendations in April 2009, calling them “ripe for review and reform prior to the 2010 election year.” The summit process in 2008 and 2009 was unusual, said Lawrence Norden, a national expert on elections who chaired the summits for New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. He doesn’t know of “another state where there’s been a bipartisan review open to the public” to recommend improvement in election law and administration, he said. “But I don’t know that it ultimately, at least for now, produced the results I had hoped for,” conceded Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and an adjunct professor of law at NYU.
A few administrative reforms, such as simplifying the design and wording of the provisional ballot envelope, have been made by Jon Husted, a Republican and the current secretary of state. What’s really needed, though, is legislation on the recommendations from the summits, Norden said. That’s “very difficult in Ohio because election administration has become exceptionally politically charged,” he said in a telephone interview. “We haven’t really seen any changes in the law – except for those that are being legally challenged.”