Our lame Board of Elections/Selections
We have new honchos at the Board of (S)Elections in Montgomery county, but, even though this sounds like a very important office, in charge of voting- and who gets on the ballot, you had no say in hiring them- you can’t fire them, and they get paid a lot of money, to hire friends and family of their own political party. Oh, and did I mention, we have to hire 2 people for every job, one Democrat and one Republican? Any of you who don’t vote in primaries for one party or the other- well, you don’t get a voice- or if you are a Libertarian, a Green or just a GDI (G-d Damned Independent).
Who sits in these directorships doesn’t matter one iota to most of you, unless you decide to run for office or start a ballot initiative, where they get to pick and choose which signatures, which petitions, are valid. Graphology isn’t legal in the courts in the United States- but, these folks claim to be experts and use that expertise to disqualify signatures, gathers on clipboards, in the freezing cold, as valid. When I came up 11 signatures short last time due to a rookie circulator- I went back with an attorney in tow, to gather NOTARIZED affidavits from people with “invalid signatures.” I turned in 16 affidavits, and they had the nerve to even disqualify one of those notarized statements.
They are an independent island of partisan political hacks who enforce laws passed by over 30 different jurisdictions on who can and can’t run. They are appointed by the two county political parties, who are dominated by people who either are elected to office- or work directly for the office holders. It’s a self-serving circle jerk. We’ve had people hire their convicted rapist brother to a BOE job- without even bothering to post the job. There are many other posts on this blog about the failings of this seemingly undemocratic political structure, but, just bitching about the problems won’t solve them. So, here’s a plan to start to fix them.
In Ohio, we only elect one person to oversee elections- the Secretary of State in a partisan race. We also expect the SOS to do a whole bunch of other things like business registrations, licenses, etc. And, once again, handing over the final say on elections issues to just one person, from one party, seems a little short-sighted.
The idea of this BOE structure is that the two parties will run a system of checks and balances on each other, but on election day, if there is a dispute- and a deadlock, the local sheriff is the tie breaker. In Montgomery County – at one point the Sheriff was also the chair of the Republican party- making things a little less fair.
It’s time to consider a new elected office, a Chief Ethics Officer in each county. We elect a coroner and a county engineer- why not a county wide person to help enforce ethical and political problems- to assist citizens enforce the very weak Ohio Sunshine Laws- where the cost of filing almost approaches the potential judgement in your favor should you win ( $334.75 vs $500 for a open meeting violation). The CEO would oversee the BOE and would report to the people about the virtue of our elected officials- and make sure that all public bodies follow the Ohio Open Meetings laws and Public Records Requests (The Sunshine Laws).
This still won’t fix the fundamental problem in that the number of independent voters exceeds the number of party affiliated voters- by a lot. The obvious solution is to do away with party registration and primaries all together- and begin to institute Ranked Choice Voting in all elections- saving money- and empowering independents equal opportunity to win. My 501(c)(4) Reconstructing Dayton has a proposal ready to advance bringing ranked choice to Dayton Municipal elections.
And, as long as the parties continue to have the ability to create this kangaroo court, it’s time to place a restriction on membership on the central committee members- if you, or your domestic partner, work for an elected partisan official, you cannot be a voting member of the central committee on endorsements or appointments to public office at the county level or below. The nepotism and favoritism must end.
What the BOE does needs a serious systemic overhaul. Fundamentally, they are record keepers- voting records, campaign finance records, and voting eligibility. Yet, I’ve never seen the BOE go out and validate voting registration in person. I’ve been given voter lists that include empty lots, addresses that don’t exist, and of course, lots of voters that don’t live there anymore. There is a solution for this- but, one both parties are terrified of- which is to actually provide mobile canvassing tools to candidates- where they can build their voter contact database- and also verify validity to the BOE for follow up.
Election tech is becoming a multi-billion dollar business in this country- at the same time as trust in elections is taking a nose dive. Having all the candidates working from a single joint database will provide validity checks like no other. Voters should also have the chance to set their own contact preferences- ie- I am ok with phone calls, texts, canvassing visits or regular mail or email contacts by all candidates, or only those with these affiliations. The BOE would provide a structure for voter contact- available to all candidates- run with geo-coded gps positioning precision, so that no candidate would ever have to pay to append voter record data again- or rent or build a voter contact system as part of their effort to get elected.
The whole campaign finance reporting system is also broken in Ohio – because we allow self-reporting and hand written (Non-ADA compliant) forms. It’s long past time to create a real-time donation portal for all donors to guarantee that all donations are not only accounted and tracked, but researchable- after people get elected, to see if they are favoring a donor. Since so few people actually fund candidates, it’s a minor inconvenience for the donor to register one time, but, it’s a huge gain for transparency and political accountability. This is all part of the platform of my 501(c)(3) non-profit the Modern Policy Institute which aims to transform elections. This makes it easier for candidates as well- eliminating reporting requirements, as well as accounting skills. All their expenses would also be tracked through a BOE issued Debit Card. All of this – in real time.
Perhaps the most important role of this re-imagined BOE is a political office and candidate information system. The BOE should have listed every political office, who is in it, when the seat is up, what the qualifications for office are, what it takes to run for office, how to remove the person from office and who is running. Instead of depending on the League Of Women Voters or Ballotpedia to provide this info- it should be available to every voter in a single place- your BOE. In fact, every candidate should be provided a free website- which is considered their official platform responses. Ideally, the site has Q&A for candidates and voters to act as a political matchmaker aka www.isidewith.com
I’ve outlined some of the changes I think would benefit voters and our democracy. I’m going to wait for the two new BOE directors, Sarah Greathouse (Democrat) and Jeffery Rezabek (Republican) to offer their vision up- but, there are two things they should do- update their site to show who’s in office now (the site was “fixed” by a no-bid contract to a hack firm) and to change their format of agenda notices- they are the only public body that issues agendas with NOTHING actually specified to the public in advance- making the notice a joke( see the last one here)
But considering the main job description for the BOE in our county has been mushroom farmer, where the job is to feed us shit and keep us in the dark, I doubt we’ll see any change. BTW- I intentionally didn’t mention the BOE Board of Directors- who are paid $20K a year to attend 2 meetings a month and do not much of anything.
I’d add: quit disenfranchising independents.
In fact, make it so that at least 1/3 of the board must certify no active political activity for any party over, say, the last five years. That would mean nothing more than voting and signing petitions–no campaigning, no donations, no attending meetings, no party picnics.
Put someone like me on that board and we’ll see how much tolerance for nonsense continues.
Interesting ideas, they really are worth looking into, but I’m curious about how much you think these employees (not the directors) make? Managing all of those tasks and systems you’ve outlined are likely worth more than the pay of a low level bureaucratic position.
Welcome Elizabeth- you can do a public records request to find out the pay of the workers at the Boards of Elections. It’s a government job- so it comes with plenty of perks. And, these aren’t low level bureaucratic positions- these are patronage hand outs for the most part.
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