Monday, March 3, 2008

Tomorrow's Ohio Primary

As many Ohioans prepare for tomorrow’s Presidential primary, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has, in their Politics Blog, an article asking Are We Ready for Ohio’s Primary . Much attention will be paid tomorrow to Ohio’s primary, not just because of the closeness of the Democratic race, but due to the number of problems faced in the past and in preparing for the primary. Many are hopeful, but do not know what to expect. Even Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner comments that, "This is kind of like waiting for a baby to come."

Based on a December report identifying security problems with touch-screen voting equipment, the Ohio Secretary of State has been attempting to eliminate such voting technology while ensuring that everybody has an equal opportunity to vote for their selected candidate and be counted. Brunner has stated that “her office has tried to anticipate every potential problem, and equip election boards with the tools to solve them,” knowing full well that any further problems in Ohio will reflect poorly on her and will continue the perception of the lack of reliability in Ohio’s process.

Along with Brunner, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Director has stated that “everything is in place to conduct a successful election.” In order to help alleviate any problems, Jane Platten has implemented new tactics to avoid problems and confusion, including placing greeters at the doors to the polling place to help point voters to their proper district.

Adding to the attention paid to the Ohio primary is the fact that more than a fifty percent turnout is expected. As the Ohio Secretary of State has required that voters be offered paper ballots as an alternative to touch-screen technology (where such technology is still in use), there will be a potential increase in the time required for voting, and the time required to count such votes.

Professor Edward Foley of the Ohio State University, and Director of Election Law @ Moritz, has stated that, “most election day problems won't affect the outcome of an election. But the prospect of long lines and previous mishaps can convince people not to vote.” Accordingly, even a simple glitch or delay may negatively affect voters and outside viewers based on Ohio’s previous difficulties. Even without technology malfunctions or poll worker error, the use of paper ballots, although deemed necessary by Brunner, along with the expected large turnout may lengthen lines to the point that many voters may simply leave without voting.

Even after tomorrow, the election problems in Ohio, and especially Cuyahoga County, will not be resolved. However, with a smoothly run process, many Ohioans may regain faith in how Ohio runs its election and be encouraged to attend polling places and vote in future elections. With even minor difficulties, any faith may be lost.

Obviously it is hoped that any election difficulties in Ohio and nationwide are resolved so that everybody receives an equal opportunity to cast their vote for their candidate. By continuing to run poor elections, causing voters to feel participation is too burdensome or discouraging, the voice of these voters will not be heard. Even with these problems, in Ohio and elsewhere, it is always necessary to remember how important it is to vote and take place in the democratic process. Whether it be at the polling place or through absentee ballot, it is important that the American people voice their opinion and ensure that the person elected is the one that represents the citizens of the country.

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