Strickland Says Ohio Election System Changes Needed for 08 Presidential Race

OhioNews Bureau

ONB COLUMBUS: Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, responding to the findings in a report released last Friday that confirmed serious vulnerabilities exist with Ohio’s pervasive and costly system of electronic voting, said he hopes changes can be made before next year’s race for the White House so it doesn’t turn out to be as flawed and open to criticism as were the two previous elections.

But only four days after Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner failed to decertify the touch screen voting machines that her controversial report on Ohio’s voting system said were full of vulnerabilities, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, a Republican narrowly elected last year, didn’t hesitate Tuesday to decertify three of the four voting equipment manufacturers used in his state, which puts him in sync with decisive moves taken by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and Florida Governor Charlie Crist to bid adieu to their state’s touch-screen machines.

"What we have found is that the federal certification process is inadequate," Coffman said, adding, "There are some issues here that need to be addressed." [Colorado SOS Coffman, Examiner.com]

CAN OHIO BEAT THE CLOCK ON VOTING REFORMS BEFORE 08?

Even though the first presidential primary season starts in Iowa in a couple weeks, Ohio’s primary won’t occur until March, giving state and local officials just enough time to get things really wrong if recommended changes are forced on unwilling or hesitant local election officials. Such a rush to judgment could be the kiss of death for next fall’s elections, when massive voter turnout is expected as Americans, totally tired of President Bush and his administration, flock to the polls to elect a new president with a new agenda.

"This country has gone through two presidential elections where there have been, I believe, legitimate concerns raised about the fairness and the integrity of those elections. I don't think we should go through a third presidential election and have those questions out there. Unless (the problems) can be corrected in a way that is verifiable by objective analyzers, I think they ought to go." [Gov. Strickland, TCD]

Pushback from local elections officials to rapid change is already clear and a little troublesome, given the size and severity of the problem. Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections and president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, told a reporter that training poll workers and educating voters make quick changes unrealistic.

The head of Allen County elections and an adviser to the US Election Assistance Commission was even more colorful and combative in his comments. “It just strikes me as totally off the wall to suggest that between now and November, we change Ohio's voting system this dramatically,” said Keith Cunningham.

As the published report noted, others are staking out a centrist position built on the notion that stricter, more consistent statewide security policies along with more recounts and other short-term measures are another route to achieving the report’s findings.

Important findings on Ohio’s vulnerable elections system:

• All three vendors (providing machines used in Ohio) have "failed to adopt, implement and follow industry-standard best practices in the development of the system."
• Experts were able to identify vulnerabilities in all voting systems that could allow attackers to introduce an infection or malicious programming (malware) into the system.
• Ohio election officials have failed to establish or implement clear and effective security policies and processes, and many counties do not have the resources to seek out security solutions on their own.
• All state voting systems "failed to adequately address important threats against election data and processes," including a "failure to adequately defend an election from insiders, to prevent virally infected software ... and to ensure cast votes are appropriately protected and accurately counted."
• They allow the "pervasive misapplication of security technology," including failure to follow "standard and well-known practices for the use of cryptography, key and password management, and security hardware."
• They exhibit "a visible lack of trustworthy auditing capability," resulting in difficulty discovering when a security attack occurs or how to isolate or recover from an attack when detected.
• Software maintenance practices are "deeply flawed," leading to "fragile software in which exploitable crashes, lockups, and failures are common in normal use."[TCD]

So here we go again. Not only is Ohio again predicted to be a key battleground state, but once again its election system and proposed changes to rectify it are taking center stage.

Even though Strickland, a Democrat, is far more politically predisposed to embrace the findings of a fellow Democrat like Brunner, the same is not true for Republicans like Damschroder and Cunningham and their party faithful who control the Ohio General Assembly, the real agents of voting laws in Ohio.

Moreover, voter-rights advocates, who are becoming increasingly disenchanted with Brunner based on her steadfast refusal to act on evidence from the 2004 presidential election they say proves it was stolen and the cold shoulder she gave them from participating in her report, are also massing into an opposing force whose ability to affect change is still unclear.

John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.

If readers have a news tip or story idea about Ohio politics or government, contact the OhioNews Bureau at: ohionews@www.epluribusmedia.org

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