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"We'll Be Ready": An Interview with Ohio's Secretary of State

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I sat down with Ohio's Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, for an exclusive, detailed one-on-one interview while in Denver at the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago. We chatted for nearly an hour and a half in what was the first opportunity we'd had to speak, in detail, since my interview with her last December, following the release of Ohio's landmark EVEREST testing of e-voting systems finding "critical security failures" on virtually all fronts.

We covered a lot of interesting, and even newsworthy topics in our recent discussion, just published at AlterNet, as the Buckeye State barrels towards either redemption or disaster in the 2008 election. In my Q&A with the Secretary of State, we discuss, among other things:

  • Challenges and surprises she's faced since becoming SoS in 2007, even by constituencies one might think would otherwise be supportive of her;
  • Concerns about her tie-breaking decision to move Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) to an all paper ballot system, just 73 days before the state's primary election last March;
  • Directives she's issued (and will be issueing) for this year's general election, such as requiring counties to inform all voters that they may vote on a paper ballot; that there must be two lines created at polling places -- one for those who wish to vote on paper, and another for those who prefer to vote on touch-screen; the end of voting machine "sleepovers" at poll worker houses prior to election, and other new security requirements;
  • Whether or not there has ever been any accountability for so much that went wrong in 2004, in places like Warren County, where press and public were famously locked out of the counting room on Election Night, or in Knox County where the last vote was not cast at Kenyon College until 4am on the morning following Election Day;
  • Concerns about student access to polling places this year, and steps being taken to try to help assure it;
  • Whether citizens may use video cameras in the polling place to document what may go on there this year;
  • And beyond all of that: Will Ohio be ready for whatever may come this November, and will they be the Buckeye State again in 2008, or the "blackeye" state that they became in 2004.

As you'll see, Brunner seems to feel confident that Ohio "will be ready" this year, even as the challenges sure to come will be monumental. Of course, I hope she's right. Undoubtedly, as I hope you'll agree after reading the piece, the voters of the state -- of all parties -- are surely in far better hands than they were with the criminal J. Kenneth Blackwell (former SoS, co-chair of Bush/Cheney '04) at the helm four years ago. Still, there are many reasons for worry, and I do my best, in the interview, to ask tough questions and push for answers where I can.

As noted in my intro to the Q&A over there, we also discussed a number of more complicated issues, better suited for technical/computer/election junkies (such as myself, and perhaps readers of The BRAD BLOG.) I'll be running the shorter, geekier portions of our interview, in which we discussed lawsuits with Diebold, the future of e-voting and the possibility of hand-counting in Ohio, elsewhere shortly.

Until then, please go see the main interview at AlterNet, and I'll look forward to your thoughts on it!

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Brad Friedman is an investigative journalist/blogger and the creator/publisher of The BRAD BLOG, which has been focusing for some years on the many issues involved in election integrity. He can currently be seen in a number of documentaries now in release around the country, including David Earnhardt's Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections, and the just-released Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story, by documentarian Patty Sharaf.