Q&A from UA Progressive Action Event
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner spoke to a crowd of interested and informed voters April 30, 2009, at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall in Columbus.
Interest in Brunner and her office was very lively, and she could not answer all questions in the time allotted. She graciously took several unaswered questions and sent thoughtful and complete replies. Upper Arlington Progressive Action appreciates the effort it took her to do so.
Q1) Representatives from our immigrant communities have said that there were many
difficulties in their inability to read ballots. What are some solutions?
A1) Federal rules around printing ballots in languages other than English state that a certain percentage of voters within a jurisdiction must use that language as a primary language before local election officials are required to provide such ballots. Currently there are no jurisdictions in Ohio that meet that percentage. That fact may change after the 2010 census.
Registered voters are allowed to ask for assistance from trusted friends and family members for a number of reasons while casting a ballot. Assistance in translating languages is one of those reasons, as long as the individual offering assistance does not try to influence how a registered voter votes at the time of casting the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office has made a commitment to providing voter education materials to all communities and is producing a piece that will be translated into non-English versions.
Q2) Ohio election rights activists have reported that ballots from the 2004 election were to be
saved as evidence have been destroyed. Do you know about this? Can anything be done
A2) The question you raise is one of the subjects of an on-going federal court case, King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell. Due to the fact that the litigation is still pending, this office is limited in terms of how we can respond. In September of 2006, the court ordered each of Ohio’s 88 county Boards of Elections to preserve all ballots from the 2004 Presidential election. When the current Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, took office she recognized that the preservation of that much material was, due to space limitations, very burdensome on the individual county boards of elections. Therefore, the court granted the Secretary’s request to take custody of the ballots in April of 2007. Since that time Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s office has meticulously retained all of the ballots in a secure, climate-controlled environment.
Q3) With the overall budget crunch affecting Ohio state government, how is the Secretary of
State’s office dealing with this?
A3) The Secretary of State’s office depends upon the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) for about 13% of its overall budget. The balance comes primarily from Business Services filing fees and federal funds from the Help America Vote Act of 2002. During the current fiscal year (FY 2009), the SOS has voluntarily reduced its GRF budget four times - when most other stateagency budgets were also cut.
Our GRF spending for the new two year budget period is expected to continue at that lower level. The agency is reviewing all its expenses and will live within that lower level of spending. We will do our part to manage operations with less dollars
while still maintaining excellent services for the citizens and businesses that we serve. The Secretary of State’s office also believes in the importance of partnerships not only as a good practice, but also in terms of resource sharing. For example, our Voting Rights Institute partners with some of the best and brightest advocates and academics that volunteer their
time to work with the office on key projects and on the VRI Advisory Council. Additionally, our office sought out and has been awarded grant dollars for several projects.
Q4) Do you believe that a move of Election Day from Tuesday to Saturday would be advisable for general elections?
A4) In 1845, Congress established voting day to be the first Tuesday of November to accommodate both farmers because of its agrarian society and those needing to travel to cast a ballot (severe winter storms were not yet prevalent in most of the country) and to bring uniformity to the voting process, as some states had voted earlier, while others voting later. Although minimal statistical data has been presented to show voter turnout increasing or decreasing with a change of Election Day, with the widespread use of early and “no fault” absentee voting, a change in date may have little impact on voter turnout. Federal legislation has been introduced which includes this measure.
Q5) During the terms of your two predecessors as SOS, the Business Services section was not well-regarded by business attorneys. What changes have you made that improved the perations of the Business Services section?
A5) Numerous changes have been made in the Business Services section since the beginning of Secretary Brunner’s administration. Some of the most notable include bringing the Client Services Center into the Columbus-based office which has significantly reduced the processing time for all business filings, the opening of a Cleveland Regional Office which in-part offers business filings, and a relinquishing of a dependence on outside vendors for items now handled in-house.
Q6) Database on Quality of Life: Will it show by area or county or city and compare with other states or nationally?
A6) The Quality of Life database has indicators by the state and county level. The website is interactive, in that you will be able to examine the indicators by maps, charts and graphs, and spreadsheet formats. At this time, we do not have reliable indicators for all cities across Ohio, but at the release of Census 2010, Ohio Secretary of State will be able to integrate city and metropolitan information to the website. Further, we have not integrated national or other state indicators in the database.
Q7) How do you guard against college students voting in the campus city and at home?
A7) When we receive questions from college or university administrators or students about where they can or cannot register, we always point out that students may choose their residence for voter registration based upon their current school address or a previous address (most typically with parents or guardians), but not both.
County Boards of Elections communicate with one another to determine when an Ohio voter has moved and changed a residence address for voting purposes, regardless of the reason for that change of address. Any attempt by any Ohio voter to maintain a registration at two different locations in Ohio and vote in both those locations could potentially open up that voter to penalties associated with any pending charges. Our office takes any attempted voter registration or voter fraud very seriously, regardless of student or non-student status.
We make every attempt to inform Ohio voters of the rules around voter registration and participation so that any irregularities, whether intentional or not, may be avoided.
Q8) What is the case against Election Day registration? Why don’t all states have it?
A8) Some of the arguments against Election Day Registration in the United States include an increased possibility of voter fraud, a cost burden on local elections officials to hire additional workers on Election Day to accommodate extra paperwork, and the possibility of longer lines due to voter registration at polling locations. These arguments also each make the case that any of these possible circumstances could decrease voters’ trust of the integrity of election systems.
Some states, such as Minnesota, have Election Day Registration. Most states do not. The decision for each state rests with changing state election law and therefore takes action on the part of a state legislature to change such laws. Currently there is no federal mandate for all states to have Election Day Registration.
Q9) I heard early voting people did not need to show photo I.D. If that was the case, why?
A9) Under Ohio law, no one is required to provide photo identification in order to vote. However, everyone must provide some form of identification in order to have his or her ballot counted. The General Assembly enacted into law the rules governing what kind of identification must be provided when voting in person or absentee.
An elector who chooses to vote at the polls on Election Day, must prove his or her identity by providing any one of the following: his or her current and valid Ohio driver's license; his or her current and valid photo identification card issued by the State of Ohio or the United States government; his or her military identification; an original or copy of a current utility bill; an original or copy of a current bank statement; an original or copy of a current paycheck; an original or copy of a current government check; or an original or copy of some other current government document. Poll workers are required to accept any of the above forms of identification under section 3505.18 of the Ohio Revised Code.
An elector who chooses to vote absentee, either by mail or in-person, must prove his or her identity by providing any one of the following: his or her Ohio driver's license number; the last four digits of his or her Social Security number; a copy of his or her current and valid Ohio driver's license; a copy of his or her photo identification card issued by the State of Ohio or the United States government; a copy of his or her a military identification; an original or copy of a current utility bill; an original or copy of a current bank statement; an original or copy of a current paycheck; an original or copy of a current government check; or an original or copy of some other current government document. County Boards of Elections are required to accept any of the above forms of identification under section 3509.03 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Q10) 81% of provisional ballots [were] validated. What were reasons remaining 19% were
A10) Some of the reasons that provisional ballots were rejected in the 2008 general election include a voter not being registered to vote as required by Ohio law, an otherwise eligible elector casting a ballot in the wrong polling precinct, and failure to provide acceptable identification during the voting process.