The debate over unsolicited absentee voter applications first heated up in the fall of 2011. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wanted to send these forms to every voter in his county, which gives those individuals a chance to request an absentee ballot. Secretary of State Jon Husted disagreed with FitzGerald because of the lack of uniformity it would bring among the other counties. As part of a compromise, FitzGerald agreed to hold off on sending out the applications and instead, Husted’s office mailed them to voters throughout the entire state for 2012’s presidential election. Now Republican Senator Bill Coley, of southwest Ohio, wants to lock down the rules on these applications in state law. His proposed bill says the Secretary of State can mail unsolicited applications for absentee voter ballots, but only on an even-numbered year and only if the General Assembly provides the money.
Ohio: Cuyahoga County elections chief Jane Platten leaving to take job at prosecutor’s office | cleveland.com
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Director Jane Platten, who helped bring credibility and efficiency to the once-broken office, announced Tuesday she is taking a job as chief of staff for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty. Platten’s resignation comes two weeks after a largely trouble-free general election in Cuyahoga County — an occurrence much less common under previous elections directors. “When I told people that I had accepted the job as Board of Elections director, many of the reactions I received were, ‘Are you crazy?’ or they laughed,” Platten recalled in an interview Tuesday. “People’s perception of the Board of Elections was that it was an agency of extreme turmoil and it was broken, and we turned it around.”
Thousands of lawyers from both presidential campaigns will enter polling places next Tuesday with one central goal: tracking their opponents and, if need be, initiating legal action. It will be a kind of Spy vs. Spy. The lawyers will note how poll workers behave, where voters are directed, if intimidation appears to be occurring, whether lines are long. And they will report up a chain of command where decisions over court action will be made at headquarters in Chicago and Boston. This will go on in every battleground state — including Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, even Pennsylvania — but it will be most focused in Ohio and especially in Greater Cleveland, which is heavily Democratic and where many people believe history teaches a simple lesson: the more votes cast here, the likelier President Obama is to win.
Ohio: State data glitch delays delivery of thousands of Ohio voter registration records | cleveland.com
A small fraction of Ohio voters’ absentee ballot requests may have been mistakenly rejected due to a recently discovered glitch in the transfer of change-of-address records. Even though the deadline for voters to register or change their address was three weeks ago, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted just this week sent about 33,000 updated registration records to local elections officials. The local boards had to immediately process the records to ensure those voters could properly cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 election. An unknown number of absentee ballot applications across the state have been rejected due to the delay because election officials did not have some voters’ current addresses.
On Election Day 2004, long lines and widespread electoral dysfunctional marred the results of thepresidential election in Ohio, whose electoral votes ended up handing George W. Bush a second term. “The misallocation of voting machines led to unprecedented long lines that disenfranchised scores, if not hundreds of thousands, of predominantly minority and Democratic voters,” found a post-election report by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. According to one survey, 174,000 Ohioans, 3 percent of the electorate, left their polling place without voting because of the interminable wait. (Bush won the state by only 118,000 votes). After 2004, Ohio reformed its electoral process by adding thirty-five days of early voting before Election Day, which led to a much smoother voting experience in 2008. The Obama campaign used this extra time to successfully mobilize its supporters, building a massive lead among early voters than John McCain could not overcome on Election Day. In response to the 2008 election results, Ohio Republicans drastically curtailed the early voting period in 2012 from thirty-five to eleven days, with no voting on the Sunday before the election, when African-American churches historically rally their congregants to go to the polls. (Ohio was one of five states to cut back on early voting since 2010.) Voting rights activists subsequently gathered enough signatures to block the new voting restrictions and force a referendum on Election Day. In reaction, Ohio Republicans repealed their own bill in the state legislature, but kept a ban on early voting three days before Election Day (a period when 93,000 Ohioans voted in 2008), adding an exception for active duty members of the military, who tend to lean Republican. (The Obama campaign is now challenging the law in court, seeking to expand early voting for all Ohioans).
Ohio: Secretary of State Husted decides against extended hours for in-person absentee voting | cleveland.com
Early-voting hours in Cuyahoga County for the November presidential election will be more restrictive than for the March primary after Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted decided not to allow weekend voting. Husted announced his tie-breaking vote Friday, two days after the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections deadlocked along party lines on whether to open board offices on the last two Saturdays and Sundays in October for voting. Husted did not wait for the board members to submit written proposals regarding their views, which is the usual procedure following a tie vote. A representative from Husted’s office was present at the elections board meeting Wednesday night and heard both sides of the issue, said spokesman Matt McClellan. Based on that, Husted was able to make a decision, McClellan said. McClellan added that when Husted had training sessions for board of elections officials in June he made it clear that while extending hours for in-person early voting was a local decision, he would vote against it if there were tie votes.
Ohio: Cuyahoga County proposes charter amendment that could lead to fewer open elections | cleveland.com
Cuyahoga County Council is considering a charter amendment that some members say could help party insiders win council seats without facing open elections. The charter states that if a council member vacates a seat mid term, precinct committee members from that council district would choose a replacement to serve until the next countywide general election. But the amendment proposed by Democratic Councilman Dale Miller would allow appointees to serve out the term in cases where council members vacate their seats within 30 days of the filing deadline for a primary — or any time after that. That could mean that an appointee would serve three years of a four-year term without seeking election.
To cope with ballot scanners a federal agency has deemed faulty, Cuyahoga County’s elections board has mandated four tests during each election — plus an audit afterward — to guarantee results are right. The county even received a grant from the federal agency, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, to produce a how-to guide on testing and auditing, to give voters throughout the country greater confidence in elections.
“The board has become a nationwide leader in assuring accurate elections and understanding that technology can fail, and it’s their job to test carefully, not just occasionally, but persistently,” said Candice Hoke, an elections professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. “That is very good news.”
Rigorous testing matters in part because the election commission last week ruled the county’s ballot scanners were out of the compliance, the first such decision in the agency’s nine-year history. The machines, made by Omaha-Neb.-based Elections Systems & Software Inc. inexplicably freeze up, miss some votes and fail to log problems.
The federal agency responsible for inspecting voting equipment said Thursday that a ballot scanner used in several key battleground states can freeze up without warning, fail to log errors and misread ballots.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission said the ballot reader, made by Omaha-based ES&S, is not in compliance with federal standards. And while it’s the first time the 8-year-old agency has taken such a step, it falls just short of decertification — a move that could force election officials to abandon the machines on the eve of the 2012 presidential primaries.
The DS200 optical-scan system is designed to read paper ballots fed into the machines by voters themselves at their precincts. It’s used in all or part of Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Wisconsin.
Ohio: Voting-rights advocates decry diminished local control of absentee-ballot distribution | The American Independent
When Ohio Secretary of State John Husted decided not to allow county boards of elections to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot request forms, he overturned a five-year-old policy that helped encourage over 1.1 million residents in the state to vote early. Last year, absentee voting was responsible for nearly a third of all ballots cast in the state.
The directive was ostensibly issued to promote “uniform” access to the polls, as not all counties chose to participate in the mailings. Early no-fault absentee voting was first instituted in 2006, a response to the long voting lines and confusing policies, such as moving polling locations on Election Day, that marked the 2000 and 2004 elections in Ohio -– a critical swing state that generally plays a powerful role in selecting the President.
In order for Election Day to run smoothly in Cuyahoga County, the Board of Elections must hire more than 8,000 temporary employees to work the polls. The Board of Elections is currently looking to hire temporary scanner operators and supply bag handlers.
Temporary scanner operators are paired with another employee and serve as a work team responsible for scanning vote-by-mail ballots. Each team consists of an input operator and output operator who must stand next to a high-speed scanner for the majority of the workday. Together they are responsible for loading vote-by-mail ballots into a high-speed scanner and collecting the scanned ballots and placing them into location specific files. The scanner operator must monitor the high-speed scanner for jamming and any other equipment issues. This position also requires individuals to assist with the preparation of equipment and materials to be scanned and the subsequent storage of the scanned materials. The scanner operator is also required to perform all other duties assigned, delegated or required of management as well as those prescribed by law.
After weeks of controversy where it wasn’t clear if, how or when voters in Cuyahoga County, OH, would get their absentee ballots, a new issue has arisen: the ballots themselves aren’t clear.
The Plain Dealer has the story:
The Nov. 8 ballot asks Cuyahoga County voters whether they wish to approve three state issues. But some who are voting early are wondering where to mark their votes. The confusion will be the same for those who go to the polls on Election Day. The “yes” and “no” ovals that normally are under the wording for an issue appear to be missing for the state issues. The ovals aren’t under the English version of the questions. They only are under the Spanish translations.This is the first election in which bilingual ballots will be distributed countywide. The ballot design is particularly hard to follow because two of the three state issues are spread over two columns — leaving no place to vote in the column with the English-language wording.
The problem here is one of usability, which is defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”
Many Cuyahoga County voters still believe they will receive absentee ballot applications by mail this fall, despite a much-publicized decision by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to ban unsolicited mailings by boards of elections.
A nonprofit group distributing thousands of ballot applications across the county reported this week that a majority of the people contacted the last three weekends knew little or nothing about Husted’s ruling and were expecting to receive applications in the mail. “We have a major problem here,” said Norman Robbins, research director of the Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates.
Ohio: Cuyahoga County Elections Board retrieves ballot after voter complains of missing page | cleveland.com
Cuyahoga County elections officials this week took the unusual step of retrieving an absentee ballot from a locked ballot box after a voter complained that her ballot was missing a page. Elections Director Jane Platten said Wednesday that officials acted properly when they retrieved the ballot under the watch of a board Republican and Democrat. The voter, from Strongsville, was then given the second page to cast her vote.
The incident happened on the first day of absentee voting on Tuesday. Platten said officials are certain the mistake was isolated. The board examined tablets containing blank ballots and found 20 other people who had voted previously were given two pages.
“We were able to audit the precincts of the other 20 voters who had voted prior to this person,” she said. “We were able to conclude the voters who voted previously all received two pages.”
The Cuyahoga County Elections Board kicked off an absentee voting campaign Thursday by asking more than 400 local organizations to place an application link on their websites. The vote-by-mail campaign is in response to Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive Aug. 22 forbidding county boards of elections from mailing unsolicited ballot applications. This is a way to broaden the outlets through which voters can access applications.
County election officials said in a news release that they expect to reach thousands of voters by having organizations post application links. Voters who don’t have computer access can call the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections at 216-443-3298 to request a ballot application. Applications are also available at libraries and online.
Jane Platten, executive director of the county Board of Elections, said staff members sent the web link to every mayor, city council member and library in the county, hoping they will post an icon on their home pages. The board is also targeting major employers, such as MetroHealth Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic.
Voting Blogs: The Treaty of Cuyahoga: Compromise on Absentee Ballots Will Yield Interesting Data | PEEA
Last week, I wrote about the looming Battle of Cuyahoga, where a dispute over absentee ballot applications pitted Ohio Secretary of Jon Husted against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
Late last week, the two men met and reached a compromise: Cuyahoga agreed not to defy the state and mail absentee ballot applications in 2011, while the state agreed to allow all Ohio counties to mail such applications in advance of 2012. The compromise defuses the immediate controversy, but it also will allow the election community in Ohio and across the nation to evaluate a few key questions about absentee ballots.
Ohio: County, state officials reach resolution in Ohio battle over absentee ballot applications | The Republic
Ohio will mail absentee ballot request forms to voters in all counties ahead of the 2012 presidential election, settling a dispute between the state’s top election official and the leader of the state’s largest county.
As part of the agreement announced Friday, Cuyahoga County officials agreed not to send out unsolicited mailings for absentee ballots for this year’s general election.
Cuyahoga County officials in Cleveland had threatened to defy Secretary of State Jon Husted’s order barring county elections boards from mailing the unsolicited applications. The county’s council earlier in the week authorized mailings to all registered voters. That led to a meeting Thursday in Columbus where Husted, a Republican, and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat, worked out the compromise.
The war of words over the future of mass-mailed ballot applications in Cuyahoga County continues. On his personal blog, State Auditor Dave Yost has a post called “The Wreck of the Edward FitzGerald.” He is saber-rattling over Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerld’s plan to continue mass mailing ballot applications to all registered voters in Cuyahoga County.
Secretary of State Jon Husted banned such mailing by boards of elections because most could not afford them and he insisted on uniformity of election procedures. FitzGerald countered with a plan to have the county, not the election board, pay for and handle the mailings. That cost is likely to be about $330,000. After lots of angry words, Husted said he would not block FitzGerald’s plan.
But now Auditor Yost says he told FitzGerald, “if (you) spend money without any authority to do so, next years’ (audit) finding could include a large finding for recovery.”
Cuyahoga County’s Department of Public Works is seeking bids for help with the project approved by Cuyahoga County Council Monday evening to send a vote-by-mail application to all active Cuyahoga County voters.
The request for bids was approved Monday morning by Cuyahoga County’s Executive Board of Control in advance of the County Council’s Monday evening vote. Specifically, county government seeks help with manufacturing envelopes to be used in the mailing and mailhouse data processing.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has asked federal authorities to intervene on behalf of Cuyahoga County voters. Kucinich sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Monday asking U.S. attorneys to “use all the investigative and Prosecutorial power” of their office to look at the state’s ban on unsolicited absentee ballots.
Ohio Secretary of State John Husted recently banned from sending unsolicited absentee ballot counties applications to voters. Cuyahoga County ballot Executive Ed Fitzgerald plans to continue the practice of sending every registered voter in absentee.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants the county’s congressional delegation to help stop Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted from banning the Board of Elections from processing mail-in absentee voter applications.
Husted said Friday he is considering prohibiting Cuyahoga County’s Board of Elections from processing applications from people who wish to vote by mail if FitzGerald’s administration goes forward with a plan to mail applications to all active registered voters in the county.
Fitzgerald says the secretary of state’s remarks raise issues about voters’ rights and voter suppression that merit a review by the U.S. Department of Justice. He said his office will forward a transcript of Husted’s remarks to members of the delegation so they can help raise the issue.
A fascinating battle is shaping up in Cuyahoga County, OH where County Executive Ed FitzGerald is preparing to ask the County Board to defy a recent directive by Secretary of State Jon Husted prohibiting county election offices from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters by having the County use non-election funds to do so.
The substantive issues in this dispute are important – especially given the growing number of voters in Ohio who cast their ballots outside of a traditional polling place – but just as interesting is the tug of war developing between Husted (a Republican) and FitzGerald (a Democrat) about ultimate control over election policy in Cuyahoga County, which is home to the city of Cleveland and its suburbs.
What’s at stake in the Cuyahoga dispute is nothing less than who will have ultimate control of local election policy in Ohio – and maybe elsewhere.
Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said he is considering banning the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections from processing applications from individuals who wish to vote by mail, if county government moves forward with a plan to mail unsolicited applications to all its active registered voters.
Today, county Executive Ed FitzGerald said his office is fighting back, and is looking at legal action if Husted makes good on his threat. Fitzgerald said information may be forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department. Speaking outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections building, FitzGerald accused Husted of threatening voters.
“That comment stepped way over the line,” FitzGerald said today. “The fact is, Jon Husted can’t order the Board of Elections to refuse to allow citizens to vote by mail. For him to suggest that he can creates a real risk of sowing confusion among Cuyahoga County residents about this election.”
Ohio: Cuyahoga County proposes to mail absentee ballots despite election official’s ban | cleveland.com
Cuyahoga County’s executive plans to continue sending absentee ballot applications to all voters, circumventing a ban the state’s top elections official had imposed on boards of election. County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced Thursday that his administration will pay about $330,000 for a mass mailing, if County Council approves the expense Monday. Seven council members, including Republican Mike Gallagher, have already signed on as sponsors.
“The vote-by-mail program which Cuyahoga and other counties across the state were running were working. It was good government,” said FitzGerald, a Democrat. “That’s a principle that is worth going out on a limb for.”
FitzGerald’s solution might be short-lived, though. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said he plans to look for a “legislative fix” that would prevent county governments from paying for the mailings in the future.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said Monday that he would like to continue a successful vote-by-mail program — even after the state’s top elections official ordered boards of elections to stop the mass mailings.
FitzGerald said he is reviewing whether the county can pay for a mass-mailing of absentee voter applications that, until now, had been handled by the county’s board of elections. His comments came just as Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted sent a directive that prohibited the boards from sending the applications to all registered voters in a county — a practice Cuyahoga County has done since 2006.
A controversial state law goes into effect in about six weeks that also prevents county boards of elections from paying return postage on the applications and paying postage for the completed ballots. What FitzGerald and other proponents of the vote-by-mail plan are hoping for is that another agency can handle the mailings.
For the first time in years, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections will soon know just how many registered voters it should have. The county is in the middle of of its largest-ever purge of voter records. And when it is over, Elections Director Jane Platten expects her department will delete more than 100,000 inactive voters — just over one-tenth of the region’s current registered voting population.
Record purging has been a controversial topic for Cuyahoga, which gained attention in 2007 for being one of several counties that had more people registered to vote than people of voting age.
Platten, who was appointed as election board director the same year, said that the department historically had an “inconsistent practice” of updating registration records. As a result, there hasn’t been an accurate count of valid registered voters for years.