Ohio campaign finance and the A.D.A.

On Thursday, Oct 20, 2016 I made the journey to Columbus to throw myself at the mercy of the Ohio Elections Commission. The local Montgomery County Board of (S)Elections had turned me in for failure to file my 2014 annual campaign finance report. Only thing is, I didn’t run in 2014- or 2015, or collect more than $1000 either year.

But, that’s really just a moot point, since the whole system is really just a kangaroo court of fake transparency. Starting with this:

The Elections Commission holds regular meetings. The schedule of the Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting for 2016 is listed below. All meetings are held in the Riffe Center located at 77 South High Street, Columbus, OH 43215. Please contact the Commission staff for suite numbers for all meetings of the Elections Commission. As a scheduled agenda for a meeting is made available, Commission staff will do its best to post it below.

Source: Ohio Elections Commission

There isn’t a single agenda posted.

But, they were going to fine me $25 a day for every day I hadn’t filed- for both years, or some such. But, let’s talk about those filings, because I did. I recorded it for this blog- and to make a case for a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the filing and recording of campaign finance reports across the state of Ohio.

Now, why is the ADA so important? And why is this is a farce?

Because if public documents aren’t ADA compliant- ie- machine readable- they are also not google friendly. This means, PDF documents, filled out on a computer are the minimal standard. But, wait, said one of the commission members- what if you don’t have a computer? Seriously? In 2016- if you don’t have a computer, you shouldn’t be:

a) running for office
b) asking for campaign contributions

Secondly, it seemed that I wasn’t the only scofflaw that was naughty. On the agenda, that wasn’t posted, there were 38 others from Montgomery County- out of 67 statewide.

That should tell you something. And, many of them- are sitting in office right now.

Our local board of (s)election would rather play “Gotcha” than help people run for office. They’d also prefer it if, frankly, you didn’t run- because we can pick everyone ourselves between the party chiefs without voters to make it difficult- but, uh- that’s another matter.

I found it odd that while they had no problem filing against me for my 2014 annual- the organization shilling issue 9 didn’t file at all this year- “Neighborhoods for Dayton’s Future” weren’t in trouble- or being chastised. Why is that?

In reality, even if everyone files, all the stinking pre-election, post-election, bi-annual, annual, etc- with the board of (s)elections, there is still no easy way to quickly find or analyze any of it. You have to know what you are looking for because they are posted as scans of printed documents (sometimes handwritten) to the site  http://www.mcohio.org/government/county_agencies/board_of_elections/candidate_tools_election_issues/CF_Reports/

Where you have to know what year, what report, and then you can look down the list and download the non-ADA compliant report.

So when we hear that the Redflex traffic cam president is being hauled off to jail, for donating money to politicians to install her cameras with a nice split of ticket revenue, you’d have to go in and pull each and every politicians report, one-by-one, for days and weeks in order to find her name, or her  lobbyist ,John Raphael, donating to anyone.

Contrast that with the still pathetic, but workable Federal Elections Commission database (they have a new beta site that looks better) where you can search by donor, by candidate, by PAC and get reasonable data of all donors meeting the $250 threshold. Or, you can go over to use the more useful Open Secrets site that reformats and pivots the data so that it’s really useful.

To recap: The Ohio Secretary of State has crafted a whole bunch of reporting forms that make the IRS look like user experience design gods- with a slew of different, nonsensically named and numbered forms, that aren’t computer ready or database connected.

And, yes, I know there is a column called “Fillable PDF” but it really isn’t.

A true document designer would have a single PDF that walks you through questions, and lets the committee fill out each area that is needed, and the form does all the calculation and error checking. You’d fill out the candidates name once, his committee name once, his treasurer name once, and you would enter data in (or import it from a CSV file) for donors, or expenses, that would automatically fill in the fields, and step and repeat as needed until the document was complete- at which point you would click file- and it would electronically send the file to the BOE- and enter all the data into a searchable database. If this sounds like a website- it’s because, that’s really how it should be done- but, PDF’s were invented before the Internet as we now know it- and can do all of these functions also.

There is no need for 35 forms. Only insurance companies and Jon Husted could come up with something that insane for a basic accounting report.

Another problem is the idea of closing campaign committees to stop from having to file these stupid annual filings via document hell. Since the new post 9/11 banking rules took effect, the opening of campaign bank accounts, linking pay pal accounts and all the miscellaneous stuff behind a campaign is incredible difficult and a barrier to running. There should be a simple check box at the top of the site- “I didn’t run for office this year or receive more than $1000 in donations. I understand that if I receive more than $1000 or choose to run again, I will have to file a report of transactions for the years I didn’t run.” Simple. No one should care about these small money accounts being held open to pay for things like keeping a URL and website up.

And, if this is all built properly, the system would automatically send out emails letting you know that a filing deadline is coming up and that you should go see if you need to file. This isn’t rocket science. The fact that 38 people from Montgomery County missed their deadlines says something isn’t working.

Lastly, there are fines levied on people who don’t file. What difference does that make to someone who has raised tens of thousands or even millions? Not much. To the small campaigns- a lot. Is this really democratic? Or is it punitive? And, what about the sneaky PAC running issue 9? What do they care if they get fined- since they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pass their tax increase so public tax dollars can be doled out to private enterprises who are probably backing it?

How about this, if you don’t file, and you win, you lose and are banned from running for a year, or putting a similar issue back on the ballot instead of fines? If campaign finance is really about transparency and integrity, this makes more sense than the hand-slap, after the effort fine.

Of course, the OEC isn’t just taking care of finance reports, they are also the ones who go after people for having signs without the small disclaimer print, the mailings that go out at the last minute that slander people and throw elections etc.  All of which are window dressing on the system that is rigged for the 2 major parties to continue to have it their way or their way.

And while I don’t believe for one minute that our voting system is rigged the way the Donald claims it is, I do know the rules governing small campaigns are rigged to put as many obstacles in place as possible for free-thinkers to run.

If you’d like to hear my monologue to the OEC- here it is:





Why having the sheriff as a political party chair is a bad idea in Montgomery County

When Robert Scott stepped down as chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party last October, the party machinery didn’t quite work the way it was supposed to. Typically, there is an order of ascendency, and the vice chairmen would become chairman. However, vice-chairman Nick Brusky stepped down too, and next on the pecking order was Dave Landon who should have been made party chair- but since he was already on the County Patronage Payroll at the Board of Elections and couldn’t be party chair and get paid, so he abdicated as well.


Apr 23 see comment below- Co-chair was Kate Burch, who stepped down, leaving Landon, who couldn’t and then second vice-chairman, Nick Brusky, who should, technically be leading the party

There should have been an election, with a quorum of the Precinct Captains voting. A quorum is 50 percent plus one of the central committee. That meeting/election never took place. For a very short period, Landon was representing himself as acting party chair. See this PDF of the filing with the Ohio Elections Commission case about the “endorsement” by the party of a candidate, even though the party wasn’t actually functioning at the time: Landon at Ohio Elections Commission

Screen shot of Ohio Republican Party site showing Phil Plummer as party chair

Here is a screen grab from the Ohio Republican Party Site showing Plummer as chair

Somewhere along the line, Landon realized he could lose his high-dollar job, and then Montgomery County Sheriff, Phil Plummer anointed himself  chair. Never mind the election wasn’t held, thereby breaking state law, but it is highly unlikely that Plummer would be able to get the votes, since Scott took over the party by getting a majority of the precinct captains elected who supported his brand of Republicanism. It was a message that the good-ole boy days were over, and yet, that’s exactly who is back in power now.

While the equally dysfunctional Democratic party in town can laugh about all this, there is one major problem with having the sheriff as the head of one political party in Ohio- he’s the guy you call when you have an election day problem. Yep, the person who is to enforce order on election day, the one you call if someone is within 100 feet of the polls doing electioneering, the one who oversees the safe transportation of the ballots- is the sheriff in Ohio.

You need to read this Memo from Secretary of State Jon Husted  of October 22, 2013, outlining the Special Powers and Responsibilities of Sheriffs on Election Day via http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/upload/elections/memos/2013/2013-10-22.pdf

“Election officials are charged with preventing violence and disorder at the polls and may call upon the sheriff or other peace officers to aid them in enforcing the law, including the arrest of violators.
The sheriff has a statutory duty to respond immediately to such a request.

“At least one policeman shall be assigned to duty in each precinct on each day of an election, when requested by the board or the secretary of state. Such police officer shall have access at all times to the polling place, and he shall promptly place under arrest any person found violating any provisions of Title XXXV [35] of the Revised Code.”

Mixing politics with his elected duties is not only a very large potential conflict of interest, it also opens a big can of worms if something ends up in court. Plummer should resign as party chair, or as sheriff immediately.

Right now, Plummer has one of his officers, a “Detective of Special Investigations” J.M. Clymer, out doing the Ohio Democratic Party’s dirty work. Although the Board of Elections has already accepted the required number of signatures on petitions submitted for Larry Ealy, the long-shot Dem candidate for governor in the upcoming primary, Plummer’s pogue is out trying to harass Ealy’s circulators with the threat of felony charges for submitting questionable petitions. Considering that current Dayton City Commissioners have turned in petitions with as many as 40% failing signatures, why these circulators are being harassed is questionable, and the credibility of Plummer’s office in the case is nil. You can’t be a political party chair and the criminal investigator for election law at the same time.

The Dayton Daily news has written about this investigation twice- even trying to infer that one of the circulators had a previous case for election fraud- stemming from a questionably legal eminent domain case in Moraine and his attempt to vote once he was made homeless. Here is what they published on Feb 18:

Petitions to run for governor submitted by Trotwood resident Larry Ealy were forwarded to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted for investigation of possible fraudulent signatures, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said the office had not yet received the complaint, but would ask the local board to do the formal investigation in conjunction with the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office. Harsman said election falsification is a fifth-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a fifth-degree felony in Ohio is 12 months in prison.

via Fraud probe launched in candidate’s run for governor | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

My only question is who is going to investigate Plummer- our illegitimate Republican Party Chair/Sheriff who has illegally elected himself? Shouldn’t that be a fifth-degree felony as well?



Database 101 for Board of Elections

In today’s Dayton Daily news, Mike Bock, publisher of www.DaytonOS.com, had a letter to the editor urging Dems to run for precinct captain seats. He also covered it in a few posts on his site:

I’m a precinct captain, elected to Dayton 1-D, but how do I know that? Well, funny you should ask.

I’m supposed to be able to go to this site and look up my voter status and polling location: http://www.mcohio.org/boe/voter_information/voter_reg_lookup.cfm

Unfortunately, the middle name field is required, and I can’t look myself up because I don’t have a middle name.

But, my parents who live across the street do have middle names. I can find my father, Stephen G, but when searching for my mother, Nina B, no such person.

What’s more interesting is according to the county site, they are in Dayton 1-E. I was elected to Dayton 1-D, and when calling the current director, Jan Kelly she confirmed those assignments.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. I have a database of all Dayton voters for my campaign- at www.electesrati.com and it has me in 1-D, but I also have a list of the entire county loaded at www.independentdayton.com and that list, downloaded from the Secretary of States site, http://www2.sos.state.oh.us/pls/voter/f?p=111:1 has me in Dayton 1-E and my parents in 1-F.

Stupid question, but isn’t that the core, most essential information maintained by election officials? Shouldn’t something as simple as what precinct you are in be correct?

Screen shot of Ohio Secretary of States voter data for David Esrati showing wrong precinct

The Secretary of State isn’t told the truth, how can you trust our elections officers?

You can look up my voter location by first searching my name at http://voterlookup.sos.state.oh.us/voterlookup.aspx however it’s a 2-step dance, then having to click on my name to see the polling location: which comes up with Dayton 1-E (see screen shot)

I’d show you mine from the county site, but, alas, I can’t see my registration there because I don’t have a middle name.

When I told Director Kelly about the problem with middle names, she said they’d work on it “if they got more complaints.”

Quite frankly, this Board of Elections can’t be trusted to maintain their own website in the first place. When I wrote the first post in this series, they still had election dates for 2013 posted and that was on Jan 12, 2014 (since updated).

Note, there are no tools for candidates to download the “correct” voter data file from Montgomery County on the county site. With a turn-in deadline of Tuesday for petitions, any questions of voting precinct should be ruled null and void at this point, since the data isn’t verifiable or accurate.

An investigation should also be started since this is probably typical of most county board of elections in the State of Ohio- which are run by un-elected political pogues in patronage positions instead of by qualified election professionals. Never mind the fact that in Montgomery County, they are handpicked by the parties- who engage in what amounts to racketeering- filling the lowly precinct captain positions with people who get paid by the politicians they select and elect through illegal closed door “screening committee” meetings.

The integrity of election data is, and should be, one of the most sacred duties of any public servant. Unfortunately, in Montgomery County, and by extension now the State of Ohio, we look like our elections are being run by amateurs.

There are five different “approved” voter database vendors in the State of Ohio. The question is why? The fact that there are discrepancies between the databases in this instance make one question the integrity of all. There are also difference in field naming, data contained within the fields, lacks of easily sourced data keys (for non-party people trying to utilize this data) and different data maintained by state and local boards. Examples including how election dates are maintained (Montgomery county uses a letter P, S, G and a date 140506 while the State uses the much less cryptic format 05/06/14). The County uses the most arcane, and technically inept way of indicating if someone voted early, absentee or at the polls- using a lower case or capital letter in the election field- something most databases can’t sort on (capitalization) instead of a separate searchable field.

I could go on to point out that I still have a real question of how when sending out postcards to people who requested an absentee ballot via mail, or voted early (can’t tell the difference thanks to their data format) I get returns of first class mail to those voters- saying “undeliverable” – yet they vote.

My confidence in the entire voter registration, Montgomery County Board of Elections, Ohio Secretary of state’s office is nil. I’m currently awaiting a call back from the SOS office, about my latest findings. If you need a visual, here it is:


Screenshots of same voter, from two different precints.

My father votes in the same place, but the precinct name changes

Ohio Supreme Court weighs in on who employs the BOE staff

It’s funny- just as Secretary of State Jon Husted claims that the problems at the Montgomery County Board of Elections are a local issue- the Ohio Supreme Court decides in a Cuyahoga County case of BOE workers behaving badly that they work for the SOS:

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by two former Cuyahoga County Board of Elections workers to compel county taxpayers to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers’ bills.

The court ruled Thursday that county taxpayers should not have to pay because Jacqueline Maiden and Kathleen Dreamer were not county employees. Board of elections workers are ultimately under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State office, the court found.

via Cuyahoga County taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay election workers’ legal bills: Ohio Supreme Court | cleveland.com.

But earlier in the week- our only elected election official in the state:

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office views the matter as a local one, according to spokesman Matthew McClellan.

via Elections board wants investigation.

Personally, I’m a big fan of accountability- and since the employees are all appointed by the two major political parties, I believe that they should be forced to pay all legal fees, fines, and be held accountable for violations by their appointees. The members of the actual board, the two Dems and two Republicans who get paid $20K per year for attending two short meetings a month, should be held personally liable for amounts up to and equaling their compensation from the BOE.

It’s time to change the way we run elections in the State of Ohio- and we can’t afford, or wait for the parties in power to make the necessary changes.

Montgomery County Board of elections admits 20% fail rate

Blaming the whistle blower isn’t the first step to proving innocence, asking to be investigated by an impartial commission is.

This is lost on both the Montgomery County Board of Elections– and apparently the people who were mailed a 9-page letter yesterday alleging that the 2006 general election had some problems.

Montgomery County elections officials claim allegations that they failed to provide more than 600 provisional voters a full ballot in the November 2006 election are false.

Those same officials are calling for the Ohio secretary of state and the county sheriff’s office to investigation the accusation, which came in a two-page letter with supporting documents, signed by Concerned Election Workers of Montgomery County Ohio….

County elections board Director Steve Harsman said the allegation is false.

“We are very passionate about getting to the bottom of these allegations and pursuing any legal remedy available to us,” he said.

Harsman said that 80 percent of the precincts were 100 percent accurate on the inventory, with matching page numbers.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office views the matter as a local one, according to spokesman Matthew McClellan.

Sheriff Phil Plummer said he has not been contacted by the elections board.

via Elections board wants investigation.

The secretary of state, as the only elected elections official, is criminal in not conducting an investigation.

The sheriff not starting an investigation on his own, is a failure as well.

The people deserve to know that elections are handled by consummate professionals. Instead what we get is a group of political party hacks out to cover their behinds.

Trouble has been brewing at the Montgomery County Board of Elections for a long time- from the hiring of a family member who is a convicted rapist without a job application, to the firing of a powerful lobbyists son for forging a signature on an absentee ballot. Sooner or later, a whistle blower had to come crawling out of the cesspool that poses as a protector of our rights (when it is in fact, just a patronage factory).

Yes, this letter only outlines the errors on provisional ballots- and only 600 of them, but the fact is that when the sealed ballots were opened and one page instead of two were included, the Board of Elections could have rectified this by holding the election results until all 600 voters had been contacted and given the opportunity to vote properly- which wasn’t done. These are the ONLY ballots that could have easily been traced back to their owners, had the BOE cared about getting the election right- yet, the decision was made to quietly ignore the problem.

It’s time for a chief ethics officer in the county- more than ever.