Monday, October 30, 2006

ID Controversy Highlights Need for Senator Dann’s Voter Integrity Division

State Senator Marc Dann, the Democratic nominee for Ohio Attorney General, said the controversy swirling around the new voter identification rules for absentee ballots highlights the need for the Voter Integrity Division he will create within the AG’s office when he is elected.

According to Senator Dann, he will form the new division in order to use the authority the General Assembly gave the attorney general under House Bill Three to independently investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s election laws.

The Election Integrity Division will:
-- Vigorously enforce existing laws and ensure that they are applied consistently and fairly across the state
-- Maintain a toll-free Voter Integrity Hotline and website to which violations of the law and other incidents may be reported
-- Monitor the conduct of elections throughout the state, including having attorneys on the ground in each of Ohio’s 88 counties during gubernatorial and presidential election years
-- Investigate all credible reports of violations, including intimidation and other suppression tactics,
-- Aggressively prosecute all violations
-- Provide training and support to local boards of elections and community groups
-- Draft legal opinions relative to proposed voting or registration-related legislation
-- Develop legislation and administrative rules that promote registration and voting

“Thousands of Ohioans may be disenfranchised because the Republican secretary of state and the Republican attorney general are once again playing politics with the right to vote,” Senator Dann said. “If we are going to have voter ID requirements, they should be enforced equally and equitably in every county. No one should lose their right to vote simply because they happen to live in a county where the rules are not being applied as they should be, as the evidence in this case suggests.”

Senator Dann said he is not focusing his criticism on the state’s 88 county boards of elections, but on the statewide officeholders, particularly Ken Blackwell and Jim Petro, who have repeatedly issued conflicting rulings and opinions and arbitrarily ordered procedural changes that breed confusion and jeopardize the integrity of the electoral process.

“House Bill Three, which created the voter ID requirements, was, with the exception of empowering the AG, a bad bill,” Senator Dann said. “But by failing to work with the local boards to ensure that it’s provisions were applied and enforced consistently and fairly whether a voter lives in Ashtabula or Cincinnati, Toledo or Marietta and everywhere in between, Blackwell and Petro have made it worse -- and they’ve done it for partisan reasons.”

Senator Dann said that the application of the new voter ID requirements is not the only serious issue that threatens to mar the impending election. “Today, thousands of absentee ballots are sitting in bags in the post office in Akron because they don’t have sufficient postage and one member of the BOE, Republican powerbroker Alex Arshincoff, won’t agree to hold a meeting so the Board can vote to pay the postage due, even though the County Execute has already authorized the expenditure,” Senator Dann said.

“Yet, in Cuyahoga and other counties, the boards are already paying the postage and accepting the ballots. That means thousands of voters in the Akron area may have their votes erased simply because they didn’t put enough postage on an envelope. That violates the intent of both the Voting Rights Act and the Help America Vote Act, but Alex Arshincoff, Ken Blackwell, and Jim Petro don’t care. They are willing to see those votes tossed in the trash because they believe doing so will help them hold on to power.

“I am putting Alex Arshincoff, Karl Rove, and anyone else who thinks they can violate the voting rights of the people of this state on notice: I will catch you and I will prosecute you.”

Senator Dann said that other provisions of H.B. 3 have already been changed or ruled illegal, including sections dealing with petition gathering, voter registration, and voter ID of naturalized citizens. “Ken Blackwell has a long record of attempting to interfere with and obstruct democracy even though his job is to do the exact opposite. From playing a leading role for George Bush in the 2000 Florida debacle, to, in the words of a federal judge, attempting to ‘accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000,’ to entertaining the ridiculous complaint regarding Ted Strickland’s residency, he has failed to uphold his responsibility to the people of this state.

“Thankfully, his time as our chief election officer is coming to an end. I’m confident that the new Election Integrity Division I will form when I become AG will ensure that the questions raised about the electoral process in Ohio in 2004 and 2006 will not arise when our state once again plays a key role in electing the next president in 2008.”

Senator Dann said the attorneys and staff assigned to his Election Integrity Division will work with the local BOEs and the secretary of state to ensure that laws and regulations related to voting are applied equitably and consistently across Ohio, to provide ongoing training and support, and to investigate and, when warranted, prosecutre election law violations. “My goal is to work with the secretary of state and local boards to ensure that Ohio has elections that are a model of democracy, not the subject of ridicule.”

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