Ohio Ballot Battle Includes Lawsuits, Security Breaches
SOS Website Breached, Dems Ask Republican Justices to Recuse Themselves on Mis-Match Case
with John Michael Spinelli
Columbus, Ohio: The battleground state of Ohio is becoming even more combative in the last two weeks of the election, as Republicans and Democrats go at each other hammer and tong over voter registration and ballots, creating what one noted election watcher says could be an Election Day mess.
With each passing day of heightened vitriol between Democrats and their candidate for president Barack Obama and Republicans and their candidate John McCain, who trails in most national polls by double-digits but is in a statistical dead-heat in Ohio, it is no surprise that each party will pull out all the stops to win in November.
But the news Tuesday from Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner that the security of her agency's Website was compromised yesterday shows the lengths some will go to create havoc, confusion and a soiled opinion of who wins or looses at best -- or steal an election at worst -- should both auger for more caution and show that thievery -- albeit at the cyber level of computers -- should be taken seriously.
In a media release Tuesday afternoon, Brunner's communication bodyguards said its Website "is back online with some limited functionality and should be fully functional by the end of the day." It also said the Ohio State Highway Patrol will continue to assist with an investigation of a security breach detected Monday by the Secretary of State.
“Our Information Technology department worked through the night to establish the needed security measures to make certain that no information on the website could be compromised,” Brunner said in her release. It went on to say that Tuesday morning the website was available for customer use with added safeguards to detect any further issues. It also said the agency, which oversees elections, will continue to investigate the breach.
Brunner told one reporter that, in addition to the security breach of the agency Website, she had received death threats and that her office had been mailed a suspicious package covered with threatening messages and containing an unidentified powder last week.
Courting the Court
While one arm of Ohio government was plugging holes in its Website, another one, the Ohio Supreme Court, was again the venue for the on-going legal battle over ballots, who is eligible to have one and who can cast one.
The latest of many legal wrangles, that Republicans say is about voter fraud and Democrats say is about voter suppression, has Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern calling upon the seven justices of the Ohio Supreme Court -- all Republicans -- to recuse themselves from a case filed last Friday asking county elections boards to not process or count absentee ballots cast by voters registered after Jan. 1 unless they are checked for mis-matches and verified to be legal.
Redfern (D-Catawba) called upon any justices who had taken campaign contributions from the individual who filed the case, David Myhal, a suburban Columbus Republican and supporter of various Republican groups and causes.
Justices heeding Redfern's call to step down from the case have been Maureen O'Connor and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, both of whom are running for re-election. Redfern, who gathered reporters outside supreme court facilities, call on two other justices -- Terrence O'Donnell and Robert Cupp -- to follow the lead of their cohorts.
The Ohio attorney general, representing the secretary of state, sought to have the case moved to a federal court, given it was about federal law, but a district court judge, saying it was about whether Brunner is enforcing state law, tossed it back to the state's highest court.
If this case, or one that has yet to be filed, delays the counting of absentee and provisional ballots, some experts say it could lead to the kind of courtroom sagas last seen in Florida in 2000, when then-candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush tussled over all manner of details including the now-famous "hanging chads."
Ed Foley, director of Election Law @ Moritz at The Ohio State University, told the Columbus Dispatch that the chance a winner in Ohio won't be known until after Election Day is over is a real possibility. "That risk seems increasingly larger as the days progress," he said, noting that instant gratification, as Amerians have come to demand it on so many other things, may be subordinated to making sure the counting is right.
Allegations of voter fraud and response to them by officials are underway in three more Ohio counties.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who was in Florida today with Barack Obama, said all this is very troubling. "It causes me to wonder, quite frankly, if there may not be an effort to set up a scenario where the Ohio outcome could be challenged. I think that would be terribly unfortunate if it happens."
Hitting back on Republican allegations of voter fraud by Democrats and those who support them, a Democratic group based in Columbus wants county boards of elections and prosecutors to investigate Republicans guilty of voter registration fraud with the same zeal they appear to using with Democrats. ProgressOhio issued a notice today that identified several McCain/Palin campaign operatives who registered to vote and have cast a ballot, but who don't appear ready to stay in Ohio because they live in other states or are registered to vote in another state.
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