Brunner and OAEO Differ on Election Bill

Brunner and OAEO Differ on Election Bill

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, April 3, 2009. Brunner, association on different pages over elections bill. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is at odds with the association representing county elections officials over a Senate bill with proposed elections changes, and it showed during public testimony this week — especially with comments Brunner made about the association.

During a hearing of the Senate State and Local Government and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Marilyn Jacobcik, president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials testified in favor of Senate Bill 8. But although Brunner is not formally supporting or opposing the bill, she offered a litany of criticisms and sparred with some GOP committee members during her testimony.

And when asked why county elections officials are backing the bill and she isn’t, Brunner proceeded to question the association’s endorsement. She argued that although the association membership is bipartisan, the legislative committee that makes the endorsement is not elected — suggesting it is not a fair representation of the views of the association members.

That didn’t sit well with association, which says its trustees and legislative committee consists of more than 50 members and that the input on the bill was solicited from all 88 bipartisan county boards of elections.

Also, the group points out that Brunner previously has touted the results from work groups the she assembled with association members to review best practices for security procedures and other matters.

Asked about Brunner’s comments, Jacobcik, a Republican who is deputy director of the Lorain County Board of Elections, took the high road and said the association will continue to work closely with the secretary’s office.

“I think our association, to a person, believes that the work that we do is bigger than any personal slight to any of us or to our group as a whole,” Jacobcik said.

Asked whether Brunner’s comments will affect that working relationship, all Jacobcik would say was, “I think most of our membership takes the view that while they may disagree with her, secretaries of state come and go, and most of us are still there, and we’re going to do the job to the best of our abilities irrespective of how the secretary of state at that particular time may view us.”

Brunner, who has clashed with association members in the past about appointments to county elections boards and other matters, also downplayed the episode. She said she sometimes has a different view overseeing the entire state as the chief elections official than individual county elections officials.

The back story, of course, is the fact that the Republican-introduced bill is nearly identical to a measure the GOP passed in the previous General Assembly last year over objections from Brunner and Democrats. Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland vetoed the bill.

This year, Democrats control the House and Republicans are in the majority in the Senate. If the Senate passes Senate Bill 8, is not clear whether the House would take up that bill or proceed with its own elections bill incorporating recommendations from Brunner.

Brunner is expected to issue a report soon to the legislature and Strickland from a pair of summits she convened after last fall’s election. Brunner said this week she doesn’t really care what the legislative vehicle is for making necessary changes.

The major disputes over Senate Bill 8 involve what changes are needed for early voting, including the so-called “golden week” period that allowed people to register and immediately cast an absentee ballot, as well as what should be done when information from new voter registrations that doesn’t match motor vehicle or Social Security records after an automatic computer check.

Mark Niquette, Statehouse Reporter, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Daily Briefing Blog: From the Statehouse to the White House, your window on government and politics [Internet]. [Cited 2009 April 3]

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