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From the Front Lines

October 26th, 2004 - 9:59 pm

Mike M reports again from Ohio.

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Tonight was training night in Franklin county Ohio, and this election became much more real and serious in my mind. There are actually many Precinct Election Official training sessions, but tonight was mine and about 180 others in the county…about twice the number that was originally scheduled for the session. The class was held in a church, with several Board of Elections officials running things and answering questions. Of the 180 trainees, there was much more diversity than I had expected. At 26 I obviously wasn’t the oldest, but there were at least a few younger than me. Probably 20% of the class was black and slightly more than half were women. About a third were first-timers like me, and the average age was probably around 40. Partisanship was checked at the door, and everyone present seemed to take their duties very seriously.


The class lasted about three hours and covered how to open and close the voting machines, how to read and handle the voter roles, and how to handle problems. Franklin county uses electronic machines that have touch screen voting, which is recorded to a memory card as well as paper tape. With the redundant systems and pre-voting checks that are done, it’s virtually impossible to tamper with the machine without taking it apart and re-sealing it before Election Day. It would take a serious lapse or outright fraud by Election Officials to produce faulty results.

One of the interesting developments in this election is the proliferation of certified election challengers. These are people who register with the Board of Elections, and are assigned to a polling place on Election Day. They are allowed in the polling place, and can “challenge” a voter if they believe that he or she isn’t of age, isn’t registered, or isn’t in the correct precinct. People who are challenged must sign an affadavit swearing that they are who they say they are, and can face prosecution if they lie. If they fail to sign, they have to vote on a provisional ballot that may or may not be counted upon further investigation. We were told that there will be challengers at *every* Franklin county poll location.

Overall, it was both a scary and inspiring experience, very similiar to the feeling I had while serving on jury duty. One of the pilliars of our democracy and existance as a nation is entrusted to the average voter who goes into the situation with more good faith than training or preparation. In our overlawyered society it’s a little odd, but it’s really what America is all about. The citizens hold the ultimate power, not bureaucracy, judges, lawyers, or even our elected representatives. We have the power and the responsibility, and that’s something I understand vastly more now than I did when I woke up this morning.

Since I’m working outside my home precinct on Election Day, I’ll be voting via absentee ballot…which I received today and will be filling out and mailing tomorrow. I’ll probably offer some additional thoughts on the class and the Ohio voting situation in general, but I’ll save that for a later post. One week left, and plenty more to come!

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Thanks, Mike. Looking forward to the next report from your battleground state.

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