by Kevin Osborne
Burke: Poll workers aren't 'election police'
The local Republican Party
this week sent a mass email to its members with a message from Ohio Secretary
of State Jon Husted, urging them to sign up as poll workers for this fall’s
presidential election.Alex Triantafilou, chairman
of the Hamilton County Republican Party, sent the email Tuesday.Husted noted that 40,000 poll
workers are needed across Ohio. “We can debate the efficacy of the law and
voting procedures until we are blue in the face, but the truth is that those
40,000 individuals can have more of an impact on the ultimate success of our
elections than the Secretary of State, lawmakers and judges combined,” he
wrote.When informed about the
email, the head of Hamilton County’s Democratic Party said more poll workers always
are needed. But he is worried those spurred to apply because of Husted’s email
will do so due to the wrong motivation and potentially could cause problems at
the polls.“Many of our poll workers
serve year after year in multiple elections,” said Tim Burke, Hamilton County Democratic
Party chairman. “Just because this November is a presidential election
doesn’t mean that our trained and experienced workers should be pushed aside by
those folks, on either side, who want to be poll workers in the presidential,
but not in other elections as well. That is a conversation I have had on a
number of occasions with the election protection leaders on the Democratic
side.”Burke added, “The role of
poll workers should be to assist voters in voting correctly, and better than 99
percent of the time, that is what the poll workers — be they Democrats or
Republicans — properly do. I am hesitant to bring in poll workers who think
their role is to be election police who want to spend Election Day ferreting
out fraud and subjecting qualified voters to cross examinations.”In Husted’s email, the
Secretary of State also acknowledged the partisan battle over the GOP-backed
push for voters to show a photo I.D. at polls.“Unfortunately, the fact that
there is ‘room for improvement’ seems to be the only common ground we have been
able to find when it comes to elections reform,” Husted wrote. “The closer we
get to Election Day, the more heated the rhetoric on both sides will become.
One side believes the law is too restrictive and that legal voters are being suppressed.
The other side says the system is vulnerable to fraud because there aren't
enough checks to ensure only eligible voters are casting ballots.”It should be noted that no
study has ever found evidence of widespread voter fraud.In 2007, a five-year review
conducted by the U.S. Justice Department and ordered by President George W.
Bush found that just 120 people had been charged and 86 convicted as of 2006 —
a miniscule amount when compared to the number of eligible voters in the United
States.Back then, The New York Times
wrote, “A federal panel, the Election Assistance Commission, reported last year
that the pervasiveness of fraud was debatable. That conclusion played down
findings of the consultants who said there was little evidence of it across the
country, according to a review of the original report by The New York Times
that was reported on Wednesday.”The Times added, “Mistakes
and lapses in enforcing voting and registration rules routinely occur in
elections, allowing thousands of ineligible voters to go to the polls. But the
federal cases provide little evidence of widespread, organized fraud, prosecutors
and election law experts said.”
The Republican Party also
tried to raise allegations of voter registration fraud during the 2008 presidential
election, when it began looking like John McCain would lose. When pressed in
November 2008, a top official with the McCain- Palin “Honest and Open Election
Committee” couldn’t cite a single instance in which problems with fake voter
registrations resulted in phony votes being cast.
At Husted’s urging, Republican
state lawmakers recently acted to repeal portions of House Bill No. 194. Facing
a referendum on the law in November that could’ve increased Democratic voter
turnout, the repeal restores some opportunities for early voting and allows
poll workers to guide voters to the correct precinct.In Hamilton County, Democrats
who want to be poll workers should call 513-632-7041; Republicans should call
513-632-7042.Here is Husted’s text in its
April 24, 2012
Dear Chairman Triantafilou,
As Secretary of State, my primary responsibility is to administer a fair
election where eligible voters can freely exercise their right to vote and
have complete confidence in the accuracy of the results. This is no easy
job because the reality is that the system by which we elect our political
leaders will never be perfect.
Unfortunately, the fact
that there is "room for improvement" seems to be the only common
ground we have been able to find when it comes to elections reform. The
closer we get to Election Day, the more heated the rhetoric on both sides
will become. One side believes the law is too restrictive and that legal
voters are being suppressed. The other side says the system is vulnerable
to fraud because there aren't enough checks to ensure only eligible voters
are casting ballots. I continue to believe that we can modernize our
elections system and strike the right balance between maintaining
convenience for voters and guarding against fraud. That balance is critical
and increasingly hard to achieve when the two sides are so far apart.
I firmly believe that the
place for critics is not on the sidelines, but on the field and there is
one way we can put all this energy to a better, more productive use. I am
encouraging all who are earnest in wanting a fair, well-run 2012
Presidential Election to join me on the front lines this November by
signing up to be poll workers. Encourage like-minded friends to do
the same.It takes a team of approximately 40,000 to staff polling places around the
state, and each year all 88 county boards of elections struggle to find
enough people who are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to
serve. We can debate the efficacy of the law and voting procedures until we
are blue in the face, but the truth is that those 40,000 individuals can
have more of an impact on the ultimate success of our elections than the
Secretary of State, lawmakers and judges combined. It is Ohio's poll
workers who interact with each voter and, based on that interaction, have a
direct bearing on that voter's confidence in our system.
I am committed to working with all sides on election reforms in the future,
but for now let's put philosophical differences aside and do our part to
give each Ohio voter the best experience they can have at the polls this
November 6, 2012.
To learn more about
joining Ohio's poll-worker ranks, please visit www.PEOinOhio.com.
Sincerely, Jon Husted
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