31 March 2014

EDITORIAL: The Columbus Free Press and freepress.org editorial board endorses the following reforms to ensure safe, secure and democratic elections in Ohio in 2008 and beyond.



1. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform voting procedures in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.



2. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform election reporting procedures in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.



3. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform election terminology in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.



4. The Secretary of State shall allow the party’s county central committees to remove party appointments to the county’s Boards of Elections.



5. The Secretary of State shall establish standards for well-trained and fully informed pollworkers familiar with the voting laws and regulations of the state of Ohio.



6. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for voter registration processing in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

    (a) The process of registering to vote shall be universally fair, accessible and transparent.

    (b) The system of voter registration shall automatically register Ohio citizens at the age of 18. An opt-out provision shall be included.

    (c) Each Ohio voter shall be assigned a unique identifying number developed specifically for voting purposes and the state shall not rely for voting purposes on Social Security, driver’s license or any other number developed for other purposes.

    (d) The voter registration process shall include acceptable registration forms including weight, size and quality of paper.

    (e) The voter registration process shall empower county Boards of Elections and their designated registrars to issue uniform voter ID cards with photos.

    (f) The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure for correcting a voter registration form in a timely manner.

    (g) The Secretary of State shall implement a statewide voter registration database as required by HAVA and shall make that list available to the public in continuous updated electronic format.

    (h) The Secretary of State shall direct that no person shall alter the electronic signature of a registered Ohio voter.

    (i) The secretary shall establish statewide uniform procedures for the standards used in accepting voter signatures in electronic pollbooks.

    (j) The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide standard regarding timely and legitimate voter registration challenges.

7. The Secretary of State shall promote the rights of college students to vote at their chosen legal residence whether it is at their college residence or their permanent home address.

    (a) Students shall have the right to register at their college campus address if they intend to reside in that community while enrolled in the college.

    (b) Students shall be allowed to use their college ID cards as voter identification.

    (c) Colleges may be allowed to issue voting registration status on their college ID cards.

8. The Secretary of State shall ask the Attorney General of Ohio for a formal opinion on the constitutionality of each and every aspect of Ohio’s current voter ID requirements.



9. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for voter registration receipts in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws which function as proof on Election Day that the voter may cast a ballot in Ohio.



10. All county Boards of Elections shall notify all newly registered or re-registered voters within 15 business days that their application for registration has been either accepted or rejected.



11. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for matching voter registration applications to any other government databases for acceptance or rejection and shall clearly define such standards in a directive promulgated and publicly available.



12. The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure to avoid human error in databases. The standard shall be based on a "Substantial Match" defined as any transposed letters, slight variation in name, the absence of a suffix such as Jr. or Sr., misspelled addresses, or other common database errors. No voter registration application shall be rejected based on common database errors. A failed match shall produce only the single consequence expressly identified in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA): that a citizen registering by mail and for the first time in a given jurisdiction is subject to an identification requirement.



13. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform security procedures or approve each county’s Board of Elections security procedures for all voting machines and technology in Ohio in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

    (a) The Secretary of State’s office and all county Boards of Elections shall make public a list of all private technicians including all independent contractors and subcontractors employed for election purposes.

    (b) The Secretary of State’s office and all county Boards of Elections shall require a technical and criminal background check for all private technicians involved in hardware and software technical support for election purposes.

    (c) County Boards of Elections shall notify the Secretary of State’s office of any and all contact by private voting machine technicians regarding their access to the hardware and/or software of any voting machines during the election cycle, including remote access.

    (d) The Secretary of State shall adopt uniform procedures for the use and storage of all ballots and pollbooks.

    (e) The Secretary of State shall adopt uniform procedures for the use and storage of all electronic storage hardware including all memory and access cards.

    (f) County Boards of Elections shall make public all contracts relating to election services.

    (g) County boards of election officials shall make public all election-related public records in compliance with Ohio law. Any election official failing to comply shall be immediately suspended by the Secretary of State pending a hearing in accordance with Ohio law.

    (h) All voting Board of Elections members and employees shall be protected as whistleblowers as established by a directive from the Secretary of State which shall encourage them to report any possible violations of elections law they have witnessed.

    (i) The Secretary of State shall adopt uniform procedures for testing all voting machines, computer tabulators and tabulating machines for both reliability and security.

    (j) The Secretary of State shall make public all government agencies, individuals and corporations that have unrestricted access to the Secretary of State office’s databases and county Board of Elections databases.

    (k) The Secretary of State and county Boards of Elections shall also disclose any real time remote access and communication between any corporation, individual, or government agency during the election cycle and voting process.

14. The Secretary of State shall prohibit any county Board of Elections to contract with private vendors to maintain voter registration lists, to count the vote or to maintain custody of vote totals or public election records for profit.



15. The Secretary of State shall establish that all voting machine software codes shall be held in a confidential trust by the state and county Boards of Elections.



16. The Secretary of State shall establish a public certification and testing process of all voting machines.



17. The Secretary of State shall require that any electronically transferred information from coordinating state agencies to the database administrator shall utilize a secure encryption protocol.



18. The Secretary of State shall require all real-time transmission of election data to be on public servers.



19. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform election auditing procedures in Ohio that are random and transparent in compliance with applicable federal and state laws.

    (a) Random audits shall include audits that match the number of signatures in the pollbooks with the number of actual certified ballots cast in the precinct.

    (b) All county Boards of Elections shall report the actual number of voters per precinct for audit purposes, including early and absentees votes that may have been previously placed in special or separate precincts.

    (c) All county Boards of Elections shall notify the Secretary of State of any pollbooks unsigned by pollworkers at the end of Election Day.

20. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for purging voters from the voting rolls in compliance with applicable federal and state laws that is nondiscriminatory, transparent, and defines under what circumstances a voter’s registration records can be purged from either the statewide voter registration list or county rolls.

    (a) Convicted felons shall be placed on an "inactive" list and remain on that list until their voting rights are restored under Ohio law.

    (b) Purges shall take place only upon notice of a death certificate, renunciation of citizenship, official notice from the voter, or from the post office or other government entity, that the voter no longer resides in the state.

    (c) Inactive voters may be placed on an "inactive" list but not purged from county voter rolls and remain eligible to vote with proof of residency.

    (d) No individual or private vendor shall be allowed to remove a voter’s name from any registration list. The removal of any voting registration record shall be authorized by at least two officials from two different political parties.

    (e) Any voter registration record purged from a voting roll at the state or county level shall require the persons authorizing the removal to sign their signatures to the action and state the specific grounds upon which the voter was purged.

    (f) Records of voters purged from the voter registration list shall be made available for public inspection and copying. If any code is utilized to identify the reason for removal or the officials authorizing the removal, a key defining each code or symbol shall be made accessible to the public along with the voter purge list.

    (g) A standard defined as "a high degree of certainty" shall be the criteria for any purge in Ohio. This is defined as a purge based on, at a minimum, a match with a death certificate that includes last name, first name, middle name, prefix, suffix, date of birth, address, and/or a driver’s license number.

    (h) The Secretary of State’s office and the county Boards of Elections shall provide public notice of any organized statewide or countywide voter purges two weeks prior to the purge and provide an explanation of the standards for purging, how the purge is to be conducted in a transparent manner, and where and when the list of purged voters will be posted.

    (i) Before any voter is removed from the rolls for any reason, other than a death certificate, he or she shall be given reasonable notice and given the opportunity to correct any errors or omissions or to demonstrate eligibility.

21. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform standards for all paper ballots used in Ohio, including provisional, absentee, and overseas ballots. The ballot shall be designed to minimize confusion over candidate and issue choices.



22. The Secretary of State shall establish that all voting machines provide the voters with a viewable paper record of their vote.



23. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for the timely delivery and pick up of all absentee ballots.



24. The Secretary of State may consider a voting by mail system for both issue and candidate elections.



25. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform provisional balloting procedures requiring only the minimal amount of information needed to establish a lawful vote.



26. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform provisional balloting procedures counting all provisional votes cast for issues and candidates from the municipal level to the presidency if the voter is eligible to vote in that specific county.



27. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform pollworker training on provisional balloting procedures.



28. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform provisional balloting procedures in compliance with state and federal laws, requiring that provisional ballots are counted and stored, and the reasons given if any provisional ballots are excluded from the official tally.



29. The Secretary of State will issue a direction that no provisional ballots or parts thereof, including sleeves or envelopes shall be destroyed or discarded. 



30. The Secretary of State shall study the expansion or relocation of additional neighborhood precincts and make specific recommendations to county Boards of Elections regarding the need to establish new precincts, or new locations, to make voting more accessible and to end disparate treatment based on race, creed, color, religion or disability status.



31. The Secretary of State shall establish three months prior to the election fixed locations for precinct polling places that shall not be altered unless an official emergency is declared by local, state or federal officials. The Secretary of State’s website shall contain an official list of all polling locations as shall the websites of county Board of Elections.



32. The Secretary of State shall approve or reassign all county Board of Elections precinct locations to ensure that no disparate treatment exists based on race, creed, color, religion, ethnic origin or disability status.



33. The Secretary of State shall establish statewide uniform procedures for the assignment of voting machines to polling locations and require the county as well as the Secretary of State’s office to promulgate the formulas used for placement in compliance with state and federal laws.



34. The Secretary of State shall make public 15 days before the election the assignment of voting machines to polling locations by county Boards of Elections in compliance with state and federal laws.



35. The Secretary of State shall have prior review and editorial approval of the language and candidates names listed on any county paper ballots, such as absentee and provisional ballots, prior to its release to the public.



36. The Secretary of State shall direct county Boards of Elections to include the names of only valid candidates on the ballots. No candidate’s name shall be on the ballot who has been declared ineligible by the Secretary of State’s office or a county’s Board of Elections.



37. The Secretary of State shall require that all Board of Election officials and precinct pollworkers display official ID at all times on Election Day.



38. The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure for accommodating disabled voters, including a directive mandating curbside voting accommodation for any inaccessible precinct.



39. The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure for accommodating bilingual voters, including directing county Boards of Elections to identify precincts through census data and other means that may be in need of one or more translators.



40. The Secretary of State shall direct the county Boards of Elections to immediately report any harassment of potential voters to local law enforcement authorities and the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The county Boards of Elections shall, also:

    (a) Record and report any incidences of materials such as fliers and/or leaflets containing false voting information regarding the voting process.

    (b) Record and report any incidences of voters being directed to the wrong polling locations.

    (c) Record and report any incidences of voter harassment throughout the voting period.

41. The Secretary of State shall issue a statewide uniform code of conduct to all county Boards of Elections for all pollworkers to avoid any disenfranchisement of Ohio voters, including disparate treatment based on race, creed, color, religion, or disability status.



42. The Secretary of State shall issue an emergency backup plan to all county Boards of Elections in case of voting machine malfunction or long lines caused by machine misallocation on Election Day including the use of paper ballots.



43. The Secretary of State shall issue a directive notifying all county Boards of Elections that all voters in line at the time of the closing of the poll, including those who are at the wrong precinct, but in the right county, shall have the right to cast the appropriate ballot.



44. The Secretary of State shall direct all county Boards of Elections to count all votes cast including those that are machine rejected. This includes any opti-scan ballots marked and discernible toward voter intent with an instrument other than that provided by precinct election officials.



45. The Secretary of State shall establish reasonable uniform costs for copies of county public voting records so as to make them accessible for public use and scrutiny.



46. The Secretary of State shall establish ethics guidelines prohibiting the use of unbid contracts involving election materials vendors.



47. The Secretary of State shall recommend to the Ohio legislature a bill outlining deceptive voting procedures with appropriate remedies and penalties.



48. The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure for the posting of all election results at the precinct polling sites immediately upon completion of the vote tally.



49. The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure regarding timely and transparent recounts open to candidates, independent observers and the press. All recounts shall be matched with the certified vote total supplied to the county by the Secretary of State’s office or to the Secretary of State by the county Boards of Elections.



50. The Secretary of State shall establish a statewide uniform procedure wherein citizens may request a public hearing following an election, to gather testimony regarding verifiable election irregularities. This may be done under the auspices of the state’s Voting Rights Institute. The Secretary of State shall publicly promulgate a list of counties that fail to comply with established statewide election procedures.