Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Friday, December 21
 
Conflict in Cuyahoga
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections yesterday deadlocked 2-2, along party lines, on whether to purchase new voting technology for the 2008 elections. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has this report. This decision follows Monday's meeting which I blogged here, and last week's report from the office of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner discussed here. The two Republicans on the board opposed switching equipment, while the two Democrats supported it.

This leaves it up to Secretary of State Brunner to break the tie, and there's not much doubt that she'll support the Democratic board members' vote to replace the county's existing touchscreen system with an optical-scan system. This is a mistake, in my view, especially so close to the election. It appear that Cuyahoga County will move to optical-scan equipment marketed by ES&S, despite the problems with those devices revealed in a study this week from the Colorado secretary of state's office.

What's not entirely clear from the reports so far is whether "notice" technology will be provided to all voters, allowing them to check for overvotes. This is critical, particularly since voters in Ohio's other counties all use systems giving them notice and the opportunity to correct errors. Without notice technology, Cuyahoga County will have a serious legal problem on its hands, given the propensity of non-notice systems to result in large numbers of uncounted votes -- especially in minority and low-income communities.

Also noteworthy is the partisan sniping between Secretary Brunner and Rob Frost, a Republican member of the Cuyahoga Board. Mr. Frost complained (legitimately so, in my view) about Secretary of State Brunner's failure to attend or send a representative to Thursday's meeting. Secretary Brunner fired back by accusing Mr. Frost of "confirm[ing] his critics' worst fears." Is this a harbinger of what's to come in the 2008 election season?

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University