July 05, 2006
My Letter to Kenneth Blackwell

(Crossposted at the Daily Kos)

J. Kenneth Blackwell
Ohio Secretary of State

Borden Building
180 East Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
USA


Dear Mr. Secretary,

Yesterday I received the postcard acknowledgment of my application for an absentee ballot, confirming my participation in the 2006 General Elections in Ohio. I am very grateful to the men and women who work in the Franklin County Board of Elections for the timely processing of my application.

It was an appropriate stroke of luck that my confirmation arrived on the Fourth of July. As I'm sure you agree, elections form the cornerstone of democracy and are the source of all of the great achievements we have seen in the United States since 1776, and in Ohio since 1803. Absentee ballots only make up a small number of the votes cast, but after the close election in Ohio in 2004, and the controversial result in Florida in 2000, we have learned that absentee votes can determine the outcome of elections that have far-reaching consequences for our nation and our state. My ballot is the means I have to affect the future course of Ohio and the country, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

From my prior experience with absentee voting, I know that the postcard that arrived yesterday is the only form of acknowledgment I receive concerning my vote. After my ballot is mailed, I receive no information about what happened to it. The ballot is a punchcard that is presumably processed by a machine, but in the past I have not known for certain whether it was counted properly, or even if it was received by the Board of Elections at all. While most voters at least have the subjective impression of certainty when they cast their vote at an official polling place, the fate of an absentee ballot is, in my experience, rather mysterious.

As you may know, recent reports have raised disturbing allegations about the propriety of the Ohio elections in 2004, and unsettling concerns about preparations for the elections in Ohio in November of this year. In particular, Robert F. Kennedy has charged in an article in Rolling Stone magazine that illegal and unethical actions were undertaken in the election of 2004 in a deliberate (and successful) effort to alter the outcome in Ohio. In an article in The Nation, Andrew Gumbel has raised concerns that inadequate preparations and training for the upcoming elections in Ohio, as well as difficult new regulations, may hinder voter registration and successful operation of the polling places, and may damage the credibility of the result if a recount becomes necessary.

As I'm sure you will agree, even the appearance of impropriety in the electoral process, whether due to perceptions of negligence or deliberate fraud, would deal a debilitating blow to our democratic culture. I have friends who were citizens of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), where the staged elections were invariably corrupt and were held in deep contempt by the population. A future in which citizens of Ohio and the nation have lost confidence in the integrity of our elections is too appalling to contemplate. Due to your role as Chief Elections Officer of Ohio, it is your responsibility to ensure that it never comes to that.

Therefore, I am writing to ask you what my options are as a citizen to ensure that my absentee ballot is received and properly counted. What means are available to verify the proper processing of absentee ballots? Is it possible, for example, for my relatives in Ohio to confirm that my vote is received and counted? What methods and procedures are in place for the supervision and independent oversight of the polling places, the county Boards of Elections and the work of the Department of State where the elections are concerned? How is the notion of checks and balances, the fundamental American concept for ensuring the propriety of governmental procedures, applied in the conduct of elections in Ohio?

You should know that I am publishing the contents of this letter on the Internet discussion site Daily Kos and on my personal blog, and I am mailing a copy to the Columbus Dispatch. The integrity of elections has been the subject of lively discussion on Internet forums, reflecting the importance that Ohioans and citizens around the country place on this issue, and their deep concerns about the recent allegations. I would be pleased pass along any answers you may provide to readers on the Internet; perhaps you could take advantage of this opportunity to address those concerns for the benefit of a wider audience.

As a fellow Ohioan, I'm sure you agree that the Buckeye State should set a shining example of openness and transparency in the electoral process. I would be pleased to contribute to that openness by engaging in a public discussion of these matters. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Sincerely,
...

1 comment:

I don't have any firm opinions about the charges that the outcome of the 2004 elections in Ohio were altered by deliberate fraud, organized by Blackwell himself. These stories have the ring of conspiracy theories to me, and I tend to be skeptical of accusations of malice when negilgence and incompetence are sufficient explanation. However, the concerns about upcoming elections in Ohio are serious enough that we have to demand accountability. And as I wrote, just the appearance of impropriety is enough to decimate any confidence we may have in the democratic process. I don't want Ohioans to feel anything like the desperation that East Germans had to live with. Because of that, I think it's my duty and right as a Buckeye to challenge Blackwell to uphold his responsibilites. I'll keep y'all posted if I get any response (and if I don't).
geoff - July 05, 2006-14:20
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