I went to a voter protection meeting Saturday. We have an organized, statewide voter protection effort in Ohio that predates Obama’s first campaign here. It started in earnest after the first voter ID law went in, so in time for the 2006 election. We observed in 2006, 2008, 2010 and we’ll do the same in 2012. It gets better every year because most of us are veterans at this point. The Ohio Democratic Party ran the 2010 election protection effort, but you shouldn’t consider the Party or any campaign(s) programs as isolated and unique to a particular cycle. We’re not re-inventing this every year. We update on whatever barriers Republicans have put in place since the last cycle, but the general job doesn’t change.
The assumption going into the 2008 election was that Ohio would be close, so the Obama campaign was prepared for a contested result and they’re prepared again this year.
The idea behind voter protection is that the volunteer election observers troubleshoot in individual precincts while also looking for, documenting and reporting any problems that may turn out to be systemic. We share information.
The election observers who are inside a polling place in Ohio on our side are (mostly) lawyers or law students, but they’re not acting as lawyers for the campaign. They’re simply observers; we’re Ohio ”electors” (registered voters). To “enter” as an election observer in Ohio one must file with a county board of elections and again in each precinct entered, so all of that is in place at this point because we started preparing in April. We’ve been observing early voting, for example.
The campaign also has lawyers “on the ground”, just as they did in 2008. They would be the people who would actually represent the campaign if there were short-term injunctive relief required in any precinct or polling place or an eventual statewide contested result.
Something to remember about Ohio election protection in 2012 is the two candidates at the top of the ticket this year. The Obama campaign in 2008 and again in 2012 were absolutely rigorous about monitoring election process here. Too, the Obama Administration has been very aggressive on protecting voting rights in those states where the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act apply.
Sherrod Brown has been an advocate for voting rights his entire career. He was an Ohio Secretary of State. He knows voting process as well as any “expert” in this country, and he really knows this state. Sherrod Brown conducted a Senate “field hearing” in this state on voting rights not long ago. We couldn’t have two better candidates on voting rights, and they both have a vital interest in this election being conducted lawfully and properly in Ohio.
Once again, kudos for fighting the good fight, Kay.
Do Ohio voting machines have paper receipts? Is there a systemic audit as part of the election system?
I live in MN, and we have ‘scantron’ type ballots so there’s a physical record, and precincts are audited each election and, I believe, a hand recount of some small random sample of precincts, to be sure the machines are tabulating the votes accurately.
Can we have any confidence that the Ohio machines will really count the votes. I’m not usually a tinfoil hat guy, but I’ve been deeply suspicious of the whole Diebold touchscreen thing, and now with Tagg having his paws in the works, I’m, uhhh, a bit paranoid…
I was hoping to hear from you, and voila, here you are.
@RaflW: This is also my biggest concern about Ohio.
Thanks for raising the issue again.
Yes and yes :)
They use an optical scan ballot (paper) and then a electronic voting machine that has a paper back-up. The “machine” was actually required under the disabled persons access portions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
We (election protection) check that they did the required audit. The board of elections is a polling place, and we can “enter” there, too.
I’m curious too about any sort of paper trail.
The last two states I’ve lived in had electronic machines with a paper receipt generated. Of course, both of these states were deeply red so maybe the states didn’t feel the need for fraud since the elected Democrats were so few in number and there was no worries about who would win in Presidential elections.
@RaflW: I’m not in Ohio, but we don’t have paper receipts either. I remember when it changed and it has bugged me ever since. We use the machines that are very easy to rig, as has been shown on video. Bothers me tremendously and I have no idea what to do about it.
Kay, I’ve been wondering about your candidate that you profiled here several months ago. You talked about dinners where you introduced him to voters and other types of meet and greets. How’s he doing?
Speaking of battleground states, cast an absentee ballot for the O-man in Florida. I signed up to do election day voter protection (law student). Anyone know when or if the campaign will contact me? I am nervous as hell about this, and the only thing that is assuaging my fear is donating every spare dollar, phone banking, and election day help if necessary. Chill the f*ck out, we got this.
It’s amazing how much work is going into protecting one of the country’s most important rights — and also amazing how many good people are willing to work hard for it. That’s all encouraging to hear.
Thanks again for the update.
@RaflW: If there is a Romney v. Obama SCOTUS decision giving the former the election, I’m moving to Canada. Not an empty threat, my mother’s side of the family lives there. If Ohio gives Rmoney the presidency, I will never shake the fear of tampering
He’s fine, personally, but not so fine as a candidate. He has a job and a family and he had all sorts of (ordinary life) complications this year. He just never had time to campaign a whole lot.
I just voted for him, today, which was fun :)
I’m glad he decided to run because we need contested races, but I think one might have to quit their job to compete in such a conservative district, and he’s not in a position to quit his job.
@Violet: Can you do a mail-in ballot?
Kay, as always thanks for the most serious and level-headed discussion on the election issues this year. I always appreciate your posts.
Are you volunteering in FL or OH?
@Kay: I’m in DC, I can do VA or even PA or OH
I can direct you to a real live person in Ohio if you’ll email me.
It’s [email protected]. I had another request and I haven’t heard back from him so I guess he was “assigned”. In Ohio, you’d be outside a polling place, because one can’t “enter” as an observer in Ohio unless they’re an Ohio voter, but there’s “outside” and “inside” observers.
@Kay: Glad he’s doing okay. I really enjoyed your profiles of him–finding him, helping him figure out how to campaign, talking about the nuts and bolts of the process (pie is more expensive than bread pudding!). I don’t have much experience with that sort of stuff and it was really interesting to follow the process via your posts.
@TaMara (BHF): I have voted absentee when I’ve been out of state, but I don’t know about mail-in ballots otherwise. I’ve been under the impression they don’t count absentee ballots unless they think they “need to”, so my feeling is, your vote may never get counted if you vote absentee. It certainly won’t go into the vote totals that make up the “narrative” in the immediate post-election stories.
I don’t know if our voting machines are county-wide or state-wide, but they totally suck. They’re not intuitive and there is no paper back up, so there would be no way to check votes if an election was contested.
I emailed in my MA absentee ballot. The clerk emailed the ballot to me, I printed it out,filled it in, scanned it, and sent it in with the appropriate affidavit. The process started with an official ballot at something like 7×18” and ended up at A4 size, so I guess the clerk has to find a way to run it through the scantron. Sorry!
One more straight ticket for the good guys.
In 2000, I shook the fear quickly enough. I still haven’t shaken the anger.
It was interesting. He’s a “labor candidate” so I learned all about the elaborate union endorsement protocol. There was griping locally because he didn’t get to each and every event, but, really, it’s a lot to ask. We can’t ask them to run in this horrible R district and then yell at them for 6 months.
Full Metal Wingnut
How do you bring back someone who’s gone full-metal wingnut? I speak specifically of my mother. She cites Kennedy as her favorite President (she is from MA, after all), She has worked for women’s rights type issues (domestic violence), and still claims to be a registered Democrat, but she says that Fox News is the “only network I can stand.” And she has a Rmoney bumper sticker. I don’t mean to suggest I want to control how people think, or my way of thinking is “right”, it’s just sad when your own family member has veered off in a different direction ideologically.
At least one person with a functioning megaphone is on the case in Ohio.
@Kay: Democrats sure are good at circular firing squads. Sigh.
I didn’t like the piece. Boards of elections members don’t decide “who gets to vote and who doesn’t” and every county board in Ohio has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. Lucas County Democrats are not shrinking violets. It’s Toledo. These pieces are always presented as the kick-ass Republican versus…no one. That’s not how it is.
Boards of elections members may well decide which provisional ballots are counted in or out, but both campaign’s lawyers will be there, too, and Obama doesn’t lack election lawyers.
I don’t think that’s correct. IIRC, they may not open them and count them that very night unless they’re needed, but they’re all counted and included in the official total released when the Secretary of State certifies the election.
It also varies from state to state. Some states open and count them immediately, which is why we’re able to have “early voter” tallies from states that allow that — again IIRC, they open and count the “absentee” votes at the same time.
Alright, that’s helpful, thanks Kay. Minnesota has had pretty solid results from optical scan…and demonstrated by two massive hand recounts in statewide elections!
Semi-relatedly, but on the issue of recounts and now voter ID, I’ll toot my orgs horn here: one of our volunteers, who’s a long-time election judge and former Minneapolis city council member co-authored a study after the 2008 election that showed that an infinitesimal number of people were convicted of voter fraud in the hotly contested Franken-Coleman election.
Now, prosecutions can lag as each county has to investigate and decide to press charges. But a RW group also pushed the counties with dozens to hundreds of allegations of fraud, which by law county attys have to investigate. The result?
@Full Metal Wingnut: I simply don’t know. One of my closest friends, someone I’ve known for 42 years, went completely round the bend in 2008. Used to be a pretty relaxed guy, now constantly angry, inside a cloud of seething resentment coupled with an insufferable sense of victimhood. Reason doesn’t work. Logic is useless. Facts? Forget it. He uses his OWN facts. You get the picture. The other day he showed up at my door wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a grinning Obama gleefully tearing the constitution in half. I told him he could wear whatever the fuck he wanted, but made sure he knew that I thought he was a colossal asshole. We don’t speak much anymore, and while it’s a shame, it’s also a relief.
Thanks from a hand-wringer out west.
I hate the tone of some of these voter suppression pieces. It’s a defensive crouch. The Lucas County Republican Party are not masters of anything, particularly that guy, and where is the opposition? Why no mention of the efforts of Democrats in that county? I can’t help but read the ominous stuff as “ooohhh! Republicans are so awesomely powerful that we will never beat them!”
I understand trepidation and fear after Florida, but I don’t really see any need to hand them that, going in.
I tell people to walk into their polling place like they own it, because they do.
Full Metal Wingnut
@Haydnseek: Christ. I stopped talking to my father around the time he called the President the n-word (not an isolated incident either). I still feel bad about it, but christ.
@Full Metal Wingnut: That’s got to really hurt. Losing friends is one thing, but I can’t imagine how bad that must be having such a toxic relationship with your father. I know I’m just an anonymous commenter on one of a billion blogs, but I’m sorry. I hope things get better in time.
thank you for this update kay, and for all the excellent work you’re doing on the ground
Full Metal Wingnut
@Haydnseek: Thanks. I just hope ni-clang wins, I really don’t want the hateful bigots to get what they want.
Having fun with the above and the back of an envolope:
@Mnemosyne: The not-opening the ballots unless needed thing is what I was told back in the dark ages. As I said in my first post, I’m pretty sure they count them eventually, but they don’t have any effect on the post-election “narrative”, so in some senses they’re not as useful. A close election (I voted in one where the candidate won by 14 votes! I was one of the 14.) would probably mean they wouldn’t certify it until all votes were tallied.
@Kay: I’m in VA and have been looking to help with election protection for some time, but I don’t know who to contact. I tried 866ourvote, but unless I want to drive to Atlanta, there are no grassroots opportunities available. I can’t make it to Ohio. Is there anything closer?
Send me an email and I’ll find you a human being to correspond with.
I hate those sort of sketchy appointments myself, I’m sure you can’t just drop everything at a moment’s notice, so we’ll see if we can find you an assignment.
It’s [email protected]
For Kay and all Ohio voters who are voting early:
The electronic machine on which I voted has a paper receipt, that prints out while you cast your ballot, so you can confirm that the printout reads the same as the buttons you voted.
I noted on my printout that it was titled “PROVISIONAL BALLOT.” Upon asking the staff, I learned that all early ballots have this designation, but it is NOT a “provisional ballot,” it’s an early ballot.
This is the deal: if you vote early, your vote is still challengable by law, up to the day of the election. Here’s a hypothetical example: I move to California, but come back to Ohio and cast a ballot early. My former neighbor hears about this and challenges my ballot. The Board of Elections has to have a way to go back and address my voter fraud.
So it might say PROVISIONAL BALLOT, but it is not a provisional ballot, it’s an early ballot.
All provisional ballots are cast by hand on paper ballots.
Just a little story about adventures in early voting…
I’d love to go into SC or Tennessee, for example. It won’t natter for Obama but both states attempted disenfranchisement, so it would be good to go in there, just on General Principles Of Rightness :)
I don’t want to learn a new state code, though.
I know we’re all supposed to be in favor of early voting but I have to admit it’s making me a little nervous. The campaigns still are in process — how many people have voted early for one candidate but would have changed their minds and voted the other way, had they just waited a little while longer and gotten one more little piece of information?
I don’t understand how someone could actually be undecided, especially when it comes to presidential elections but it appears there are plenty of people like that. A good number of them are going for Romney at the moment. I’d like them to have enough time to realize the error of their ways before they commit themselves.
Can someone reassure me that early voters are mainly rabid partisians and not fickle low-information voters?