By Bob Fitrakis
To paraphrase the late investigative reporter I.F. Stone: Everything we need to know is in the public record. The problem during the Voinovich and Taft years is the fact that public papers were treated like corporate trade secrets. The fact that touchscreen computer voting machines are programmed with private proprietary software is a reflection of the much bigger problem of authoritarianism in the U.S. government.
Benjamin Marrison’s commentary entitled “Dann’s fight for Ohioans to know” in the Sunday, April 8, 2007 Columbus Dispatch provides the proper analysis in distinguishing why corruption has flourished in Ohio.
Having spent nearly two and a half years trying to uncover what happened in the 2004 election, I was occasionally with arrest and usually denied access to public records. The dynamic duo of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Attorney General James Petro worked as follows: the first would urge his county board of elections (BOE) employees not to turn over records and the second would do nothing when the county prosecutors violated their oath of office and refused to hand over voting records.
Eventually, the threatened lawsuits, papers filed and records requests would slowly prevail, but it wasn’t really until the summer of 2006 that many of the ballots, pollbooks and purge lists requested were made available in limited numbers.
There is one exception. Steve Quillen, the Republican appointed director of the board of elections in Miami County remains the only BOE official who acted in good faith and practiced full transparency. Despite some voting irregularities in his county, Quillen’s actions were never called into questions because he did nothing to cover up those activities.
As for most of the state’s other BOEs, particularly those in rural southwest Ohio, Ohio’s new Attorney General Marc Dann needs to go after one of the public officials down there and put his or head on a pike – figuratively, I mean. That’s why the convictions of the BOE workers in Cuyahoga County are so important. It sends a message that law-breaking and election tampering, no matter what the excuse – I was tired and didn’t want to do a real recount as required by law – will end your career and land you in jail.
That’s why Dann’s recent actions in enforcing the sunshine law by pointing out that the Ohio Public Utilities Commissioners were illegally appointed is of great symbolic value. Equally important is Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s actions this week taking custody of all the public records from the controversial 2004 presidential election. Brunner’s commitment to the public records act coupled with Dann’s bold recent actions are first steps to re-establishing rule by the people in the Buckeye State.