Redrawing the local lines, new precincts and voting locations for Montgomery County

Because our Board of Elections is controlled by the local political parties (the two that the State of Ohio recognizes)- we see all kinds of shenanigans – like the 2-2 ties on party lines every time there is a question of one of their approved candidates- but a 4-0 decision on anyone else (when the Mayor of Moraine failed to turn in 50 signatures, the Dems actually wanted her to appear on the ballot).

Of course, the Montgomery County Board of Elections fails us in many ways. There are no minutes or agendas or meeting schedules on their site: They also fail to post forms in PDF format for candidates, or basic information like polling places.

Compare this with the first-class Franklin County Board of Elections- which has all minutes posted and their open meetings policy or their forms for candidates– and even the ability to download voter data directly from their site!

There has been much discussion among political wonks (of which I don’t include myself) about the redistricting in 2010 for Congressional districts. In Ohio, we have a system that allows serious gerrymandering- which explains why Huber Heights has Boehner while the rest of Dayton gets Turner, and WPAFB is Austrias. With Ohio’s drop in population, we may lose a congressional seat or possibly two, forcing a new set of puzzle pieces to be drawn to help either the Republicans or Democrats own districts so that incumbents stay that way.

What isn’t tracked so much is the local level mishmash of precincts and polling stations. This is done at the local level and is about to be played with again- just before Thanksgiving, when the last election results are certified. Why should you care? The average voter shouldn’t. However, in a move to consolidate power in the hands of a few, this move is critical for the local parties, I’ll explain. Other than electing priority board people, or precinct captains for each political party, or voting a small area dry- as far as I can tell, precincts make zero difference to any of us. Some would say, they are totally insignificant.

My street splits between two precincts. For me on the odd side of Bonner, I walk a block and a half to the United Christian Center. My parents on the even side, have to travel about 5 blocks to the Gospel Mission to vote. This makes zero sense- but, what makes even less sense as I discovered the night before the election when I was putting my signs or chalk out at polling places, is that many of them are literally back to back. That’s right- two different buildings full of poll workers and diabolical electronic voting machines- right next to each other. This is part of the reason elections cost us so much (at least $80k to hold one). It also costs the Democratic Party that pays people $75 for 13 hours to stand outside handing out stupid voter slate cards (sub-minimum wage- from the party that supposedly endorses a living wage). In an effort to cut costs and headaches, the Montgomery County Board of Elections is going to cut the number of Precincts down from 548 to 360- saving us 188 precincts.

Why is this important to you and me? It’s not. But, to the parties, who have to find people to be “Precinct captains” to serve on their “Central committees” to run their party- it’s a way to consolidate power, since a great number of seats are empty. These are the people that elect party chairmen, who then select people to serve on screening committees– who then choose who will be anointed to run on the ballot.

Now you understand why this little bit of local gerrymandering without public scrutiny is being done on the quiet. It’s already a done deal, all that has to happen is signatures on the dotted line Tuesday, Nov 24.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party site is currently offline- behind a password (maybe so they can remove all connections to Rhine McLin and hope we won’t notice) but it has never had lists of the precinct captains or the screening committee available. In fact, it’s never publicized that people are needed to fill these seats. After the redistricting, new precincts with 2 people in them- preference will go to the elected over the appointed captains. The Dems elect their captains in the Gubernatorial cycle, the GOP does theirs on the Presidential cycle.

Again- compare to the Franklin County Democrats who post their Central Committee membership list on the site for all to see.

If we want to see democracy return to Montgomery County- where you get to pick the candidates in primaries, and have a chance to be heard in local party politics (so you don’t find them taking money from casino backers and pushing bad amendments to out State Constitution) it’s time to pay attention to what’s been going on behind closed doors for way too long.

Your thoughts? This is why I’m starting the Dayton Process. Hope you understand this better now.

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24 Responses

  1. Jennifer Alexander November 14, 2009 / 10:48 pm
    I completed a comparison study of all 88 Ohio County BOE web sites in Feb. of 2008 for The Ohio Election Justice Campaign. I am always willing to share this 40 page report with anyone.  The Montgomery County BOE site is far from perfect, yet is very far from the bottom of the list.
    I do agree that the Franklin County BOE site is the top rated of all 88 counties, the ease of access to numerous amounts of public records, meeting calendars, meeting agendas & minutes…information the average citizen has no idea…that is actually THEIR information & that they should take advantage of this information & educate themselves about what really goes on at the BOE.

    Hearing that the Montgomery County BOE is planning on cutting back on precincts & polling locations, is VERY disturbing to me. Yes, it will save the county $ to go to SUPER SIZED polling locations, yet will cost the voters their rights. These over sized polling locations bring nothing but problems.  The more voters in one location equals more stressed out, under trained, over worked, under paid poll workers.  The majority of these poll workers are seniors, who in my experience, have the best of intentions & dedication to such an important civic service….yet, have over the last several years gone through so many changes in procedures & equipment….that they are becoming lost in the mix.  When I look back at my years of Election Protection observing, the larger super sized polling locations, always have had the most document problems.  These problems span from paper jams in the DRE to judges being too overwhelmed to actually take the time to look up voters correct polling table (which might be in the same room) & making them vote provisional instead. This goes on….

    The county would save more $ by joining SOS Brunners law suit & getting a refund on the DREs & going back to the good days of paper ballots & voting in your neighbors garage. You’re lucky you can walk to vote David….Greene County already has many super sized polling locations…..I drive round trip 10 miles to vote in Sugarcreek….yet, I live within walking distance of Bellbrook H.S.

  2. David Lauri November 15, 2009 / 10:57 am
    No one has to drive to vote in Ohio.  Anyone may request an absentee ballot, without providing any reason for doing so, and then may vote from the comfort of his or her own home. If we really wanted to save money in Ohio, we’d be doing all our voting by mail.
    About poll workers I do have a question.  Why are the same poll workers required to be at the precincts all day long, from before 6:30 a.m. to after 7:30 p.m.?  My sister volunteered as a poll worker once but wouldn’t do it again because of that requirement. How many people, no matter how much they want to serve their country, want to put in a 13+ hour day?  Having the same people working 13+ hours isn’t required to ensure the sanctity of the ballots, is it?  Don’t police officers have chain of evidence procedures?  Couldn’t morning poll workers sign off at a change of shift to afternoon poll workers?  Who made up these rules?
  3. Jennifer Alexander November 15, 2009 / 2:32 pm
    @ David….absentee / voting by mail is the least safe way to vote, google “voting by mail” and you will find study after study with the documented problems with that.  2004 presidential election in Ohio (several pending court cases still) something like 100,000  ballots (I have the exact figure in my files, somewhere) were found  in unopened cases at a Columbus post office over a month after the election had been certified…even in this past election Miami County had a problem with mailed absentee ballot paperwork (DDN reported)…so I’ll stick to driving to the polls. Although, I miss the days that polling locations were actually in neighborhoods & you personally knew your judges by first name, it was a sense of community.

    As far as police having “chain of command” with the ballots….lol. If I witnessed as DRE flipping votes, as I have many times, I should be able to call the police and have them put yellow crime scene tape on the machine & haul it away so no one else votes on it, nor tampers with it….yet if I called the police, I’d probably get arrested for opening my mouth & suggesting that the law be followed.

    There are youtube clips from election activist from all over the country with them following cases of ballots that have left voting precincts in delivery trucks (sealed) and then wild car chases that are like something out of crazy movie….it seems like anything goes.

    With splitting the day for election polling judges, great idea that has been talked about for years. Also talk of extending the polling hours until the close of polls on the west coast, which would make the day that much longer. Either way, the BOE’s struggle to get people to sign up. Kid’s Voting has done a great job with getting students out to help with some of the duties, yet I feel this should be expanded on. These kids do a super great job & should be given more responsibility than what they have so far. We need to be weeding some of the poll workers out….for example when I voted this time & asked for a paper ballot, as I always do, the senior gentleman said “why would you want one of those” very nasty tone & I said “well it’s not your job to ask why, only to help me do so”, he then replied “must be because your a damn woman”……..

  4. David Esrati November 15, 2009 / 5:41 pm

    @Jennifer, I know you are the expert on this- but, I think I trust vote by mail like Oregon has- more than I trust machines, absentee, provisional and all the rest of our complex mess.

    Plus- it takes the intimidation factor out- vote at your leisure- without having someone shoving dummy voter cards at you outside the polls.


  5. Jeff November 15, 2009 / 7:25 pm
    If I recall right Miami County had multi-precinct polling places in a recent presidential (2004?) election and it led to long lines.
  6. Jennifer Alexander November 15, 2009 / 8:21 pm
    Paper Ballots, Not Mail Ballots
    (Why all mail ballot elections are a bad idea)

    Lack of Transparency – Ballots are mailed in secret and counted in secret on secret software. Ballots are counted at a central location that makes fraud on a large scale easier to accomplish and harder to detect. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse data shows that approximately a third of computer security breaches are done by insiders either intentionally or accidentally.

    Lack of Security – Ballots in hundreds of thousands of locations with no security for two to three weeks. The chain of custody lacks security as the ballots are handled by many anonymous persons throughout the process. Any unmarked contest on a ballot can be marked by someone other than the voter when the ballots are opened for counting.

    Voter Intimidation – Voting can be done as a group at churches or union halls with people looking over the voter’s shoulder to make sure they vote “the right way.”

    Election Fraud – There is no way to be certain that the person who signed the envelope is the person to whom the ballot was sent. Ballots can be stolen from mail boxes while the voter is at work or away from home on an errand. Other tactics include vote harvesting by persons who show up at your door to “help” you vote. The elderly and those with disabilities are particularly vulnerable.

    Potential for Ballot Mishandling – Post office or contract mailing company illegally forwards ballots, more than one ballot sent to voters, postal workers putting ballots in the trash. (All of these thing have happened in Colorado, 1100 ballots illegally forwarded in Douglas County, 214 voters received two ballots in Boulder County, ballots found in dumpsters at post office in El Paso County.)

    Lack of Secret Ballot – When election judges check in your ballot, they can see how you voted when they match the inventory number on your ballot to the inventory number next to your name on the voter rolls. The Colorado Constitution guarantees your right to a secret ballot. [ed note: as do most other state Constitutions and elections code.]

    Additional Resources:
    “Why Mail Ballots Are a Bad Idea” by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D 

    @ Jeff…your very lucky, if your voting precinct is still in a location, that only has 1 precinct. When I started as a poll judge, when I turned 18, almost 20 yrs ago, in Montgomery County, that location had 4 precincts in the same location…it has always been very common for multiple precincts in the last 20 yrs. I stopped working as a poll judge after my first election experience w/ the DRE’s & started working as an official observer. I’ve observed in locations that have had as many as 10 precincts in the same room…you could write a novel after observing a presidential election in a room with that many precincts. 1 brief example, if a voter doesn’t know their precinct # like 1A-2B, & the get in the wrong line, since there are 10 lines, they wait 45 minutes to get to the judge table, tell them their name & their name isn’t on the that particular voter log list…they either get turned away & not sure where to go next, or are told to vote a provisional ballot (that won’t count), get frustrated & just give up & leave, or hopefully finally wait in the right line or the line w/ a judge that actually knows what they are doing & cares & looks up the voters street & tells them where they should be in line …..

    I firmly feel the safest way to have your vote counted in our neck of Ohio, is to go to the polls on election day (not early at the BOE) & request to vote paper ballot & then just pray the scanner reads it properly….I never the first time EVER had a complaint with our old paper punch ballots, never saw a problem w/them…until Florida & Gore 2000…but Dan Rather exposed that problem was w/ the shotty grade of paper

  7. Jennifer Alexander November 16, 2009 / 8:04 am

    The OEJC is a coalition of concerned citizens and election experts from Ohio and around the nation, including election reformers currently serving on the Ohio Secretary of State’s Voting Rights Institute.
    The OEJC seeks to raise citizen awareness of election justice issues through education and to encourage elected officials to restore the rule of law to Ohio.

  8. David Lauri November 16, 2009 / 11:41 am
    “There has never been a single substantiated claim of voting coercion in Washington state, and the registry of voters is scanned daily for duplicate registrations.
    “Even in the unlikely case of coercion, the significant increase in overall voters makes the change a net positive. For every one case of coercion, there would be hundreds of additional, legitimate, better informed votes.”
  9. Jennifer Alexander November 16, 2009 / 3:05 pm
    @David- your correct, I can’t find a “substantiated claim” of voting coercion in Washington state w/ mail/absentee voting…yet that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened or won’t in the future.

    Yet, stepping way from the coercion factor,there are many other points of discussion against voting by mail. 

    With election integrity issues the main stream media hardly touches the topic & when it does, it is rare that you see info beyond what a BOE director or an SOS has released on a topic.  There is so much detailed info to look into & follow, that it really requires a huge chunk of time & effort, that most lose interest.

    feel free to email me personally & I will forward you a list of  links with documented articles
    [email protected]
    with the issue above of mail in voting & chain of command, below are a few links 
    (watch the butch & hoppy chain of command videos)

  10. Jennifer Alexander November 16, 2009 / 3:08 pm
    @David- your correct, I can’t find a “substantiated claim” of voting coercion in Washington state w/ mail/absentee voting…yet that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened or won’t in the future.

    Yet, stepping way from the coercion factor,there are many other points of discussion against voting by mail. 

    With election integrity issues the main stream media hardly touches the topic & when it does, it is rare that you see info beyond what a BOE director or an SOS has released on a topic.  There is so much detailed info to look into & follow, that it really requires a huge chunk of time & effort, that most lose interest.

    feel free to email me personally & I will forward you a list of  links with documented articles
    [email protected]
    (spam filter won’t allow me to add the links)

  11. David Esrati November 16, 2009 / 3:39 pm

    Jennifer- I’ve whitelisted your IP (finally). I think the problem has been you’ve written in Word and pasted- and the filter sees the code.

    You should be good to go now.

  12. David Esrati November 17, 2009 / 9:20 am

    Three days after you read it first on the Dayton Daily News gets the story. There are still no minutes of the meetings where this was discussed available from the BOE- nor redrawn maps for inspection/discussion. This should be considered a violation of the Sunshine Laws. Nor is their public notice on their website.

    From the DDN:

    The number of precincts would shrink to 360 from 548. Harsman said the average number of voters in a precinct will rise to 1,000 from the current 700. State law limits the number to 1,400.

    via Montgomery County to shrink voting precincts from 360 to 220.

    Of course- their headline and story don’t agree on numbers (basic math ed- FAIL). No mention of what will happen to priority boards- or dry precincts.

  13. Bruce Kettelle November 17, 2009 / 1:40 pm
    Where are the reditricting computers?  I worked for a consulting firm in the 1980s that used a sophisticated software system to redistric sales territories, school districts, and even election districts.  That particular system was never converted to a pc but others have made the technological leap.  These system can be particularly good at defining impartial compact districts based on sets of constraints agreed to before the computer models are run. Some minor manual fine tuning is usually needed to help correct for natural boundaries like rivers and mountain ranges but for no other reasons.  Politicians and party leaders tend to hate these systems.

    Texas tried to improve with this 2003 computer redistricting requirement but apparently it was not entirely successful

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