Ohio needs an elections chief who will restore public trust

Only the most partisan of individuals would deny that Ohio's reputation was tarnished by the myriad problems that surfaced during the 2004 presidential election as a result of missteps by the secretary of state's office and local boards of elections.
Ohio continues to be used as an exhibit by various national organizations analyzing the 2004 election to determine what went wrong and what should be done to avoid a repeat in 2008.
And at the heart of the discussion about Ohio is Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who served as the co-chairman of President Bush's re-election campaign in Ohio and was a vocal leader in the push for the passage of the so-called marriage amendment.
Blackwell, the Republican nominee for governor in the Nov. 7 general election, was widely criticized for his handling of the election two years ago.
It is against such a backdrop that this year's election for secretary of state is being fought.
The Democratic nominee is Jennifer Lee Brunner, 49, of Columbus, a former Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge who gave up her public position to run for this office. She is currently in the private practice of law. She worked in the secretary of state's office from 1983 to 1987 as the deputy director/legislative counsel and assistant corporations counsel.
The Republican nominee is Greg Hartmann, 39, of Cincinnati, the Hamilton County clerk of courts.
After interviewing both candidates and analyzing their r & eacute;sum & eacute;s and the written answers to questions contained in the candidate questionnaire, The Vindicator believes that Brunner as secretary of state would not only restore voters' trust in the elections process in Ohio, but would work to improve the state's image around the country.
While both candidates agree that elections must be free, open and honest, Brunner makes a more compelling case for her succeeding Blackwell as the chief elections officer -- by detailing all the shortcomings of the current administration and then explaining what she would have done to prevent the problems that surfaced.
Hartmann, who readily acknowledges that changes need to be made, declines to point the finger of blame -- even while blasting his Democratic opponent.
Right to vote
In pledging to guarantee that the right to vote is easily accessible to every registered Ohioan, Brunner says she will develop ways to make it easier for people to understand the registration and voting rules and how to participate in the process.
"I will assist the boards of elections in providing uniform procedures for holding election in the state, taking into account differences in locales, but requiring a uniform system of voting machine distribution and poll worker training offered in close proximity to an election to provide for an equal and fair system of voting in our state," she wrote in her questionnaire.
She has also developed a program to address identity theft and, because the secretary of state oversees the incorporation of businesses, Brunner had put together a "Blueprint for Business" to make the office more efficient and customer friendly to companies that "want to grow more jobs for Ohio."
Likewise, Hartmann has given thought to how the administration of the state's elections can be improved and has developed a 20-point plan that, among other things, would increase precinct training and ethics training for elections officials.
It is, indeed, reassuring that both candidates have taken the time to not only study the operation of the secretary of state's office but to come up with solutions to the problems that have plagued the government entity.
But when all is said and done, Brunner stands out as the obvious choice to lead Ohio into the 2008 presidential election.
The Vindicator endorses her candidacy for secretary of state.

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