The Ohio Secretary of State’s office is looking into allegations that election procedure was violated in Brown County during the March 6 Primary Election.
At issue is the “Statement of Person Challenged as to Party Affiliation” affidavit that local voters were asked to sign when requesting a ballot from a party that they are not registered in.
Ohio is a “closed primary” state, meaning that voters must declare which primary ballot they wish to use.
On December 20, 2011, the Ohio Secretary of State issued a directive to all county boards of election that primary voters can only be challenged when requesting an “out of party” ballot when the election official has personal knowledge that the voter is a member of a different party.
The idea was to make the process of switching between parties less time consuming and intimidating.
So, what happened? At a training of poll workers previously Dallas Hurt(democrat board member) and Kathy Jones (democrat director of the office)had instructed poll workers to make anyone who wanted to switch parties fill out this form...So, in essence, Mr. Hurt and Ms. Jones were challenging EVERY crossover voter. This is a gross misuse of the form as specified by the directives and in the handbook. This was pointed out by a confused poll worker to Mariah Votel (a republican board member), who then read the handbook and said not to take the affadavits....but let the Press continue:
Incidents of party switching were common during the March 6 primary because of two statehouse races involving Republicans Paul Hall and Brown County Auditor Doug Green.
Some Republicans also switched parties to vote for Democrat candidates in contested races.
Hall said that none of the four other counties in State Senate District 14 (Clermont, Adams, Scioto and Lawrence) required voters to sign affidavits to switch parties and that Brown County shouldn’t have either.
“Do I believe that Secretary of State policy was violated? Absolutely. Do I believe that voters were disenfranchised? Absolutely”, said Hall.
Paul Hall only lost by a small number of votes. Votes that democrats crossing over could have given him. He didn't contest the election because he didn't want to seem a sore loser to his opponent, Joe Uecker. However, when Dallas Hurt besmirched the name of Bill Herdmann, another Republican board member, and when informed by the Press that they were looking into the matter, Hall commented. Back to the story:
A representative of the Secretary of State’s Office said May 30 that the office was “gathering facts in the matter” and offered no further comment.
Brown County Democrat Party Chairman Dallas Hurt said that his concern was that voters be made aware that changing their party affiliation was a two year commitment, and that was one reason he advocated using the affidavits.
“These people who switch parties cannot vote in other party elections, sign petitions or otherwise participate in the party process until and unless they switch back in the primary election of 2014”, Hurt said.
“I think it’s important that voters be aware of that fact.”
Or, was Mr. Hurt, who is also the chairman of the fledgling Democrat party in Brown County, trying to compile an enemies list to harass over their crossing over? Was he trying to cost Paul Hall, former election board member, his election? Or, did Mr. Hurt simply make the typical liberal assumption that people don't know what they are doing? Whichever, it stinks to high heaven.
Republican Board of Election member Mariah Votel said that she encountered poll workers who were confused about directions given by the board of election regarding the affidavits.
“I was asked about the affidavits at the first precinct I visited. I told (the poll worker) that they were not to ask for the affidavits and they responded that they were told to do so by (Board of Elections Director) Kathy Jones.”
Votel said she personally witnessed a voter request an out-of-party ballot and then change their minds when told about the affidavit requirement.
“That’s when I called Kathy Jones and said we need to call the Secretary of State’s office.”
So, Ms. Votel witnessed a voter who wanted to switch parties talked out of it,coerced, if you will, by a poll worker under the directives of Jones, who frequently gets her orders from Hurt, who helped get her the current position. Jones was brought in from Clermont County by Hurt.
Votel said she and Jones called the Secretary of State’s office about 10:30 a.m. and that they were told that the affidavits were not required and were not to be asked for.
Around noon, another call went out to poll workers, telling them to fill out the affidavits when a voter requested an out-of-party ballot, but not to have the voter sign it.
That directive came from Jones at the direction of Hurt.
“During the course of that election, we saw people come in and switch from one party to the other , knowingly and willingly, because they wanted to vote for a particular candidate on the other side”, Hurt said.
“As long as they were told that particular party switch was going to last for two years, I didn’t have a problem with that whatsoever. I did have a problem with them being given a ballot and left with the assumption that they had not changed parties. That was the purpose and use of that form.”
People didn't change their minds about crossing over because of this. They changed their minds, according to my sources, because they didn't want to sign a paper and felt it was intimidation. One candidate's relative who wanted to switch over was so harassed and instead said "give me the democrat ballot." So, Mr. Hurt is playing word games to cover his butt. But, it gets better:
Regarding the call to the Secretary of State’s office, Hurt said he was aware of another call made to the same office where a different answer was returned.
“Mariah got one answer from one person that she contacted and (Deputy Director Kathy Long) got another answer that you could not require (voters) to sign it, but it was an appropriate affidavit to be used by the poll workers. So, two different employees of the Secretary of State’s office were contacted by two different parties and a different shade of answer came back from those two different chains. I did not make a direct call to the Secretary of State’s office because I was relying on what is written in the printed handbook.”
So, Mr. Hurt is trying to say this handbook says basically anyone who switches should be challenged, even though others have said this is not what the form was designed for according to the same handbook. It is curious that according to Ms. Votel, Kathy Jones and Kathy Long were there when she called the SecState's office. Ms. Votel even has the name of the person she talked to. Mr. Hurt seems a little fuzzy on his details. Maybe he realizes he screwed up or got caught? Mr. Hurt is known around Brown County as a bully and someone who tries to lord over people or walk and cross ethical lines. He went against ethics and protocol by leaking to another newspaper details of matters discussed in executive session of the board, which is supposed to be confidential. So, his word should be taken with a big grain of salt:
So, basically, Hurt is trying to say it is ok to basically challenge every voter who wants to switch and make them sign an affadavit. The other question remains: why have staff fill out the form and not make the voter sign it? What recordkeeping is Hurt doing? An enemies list? A harassment list? Very fishy. He plays fast and loose with ethics and is a bully and may have finally gotten caught. Sources told me that poll workers initially told voters who refused to sign the affadavit the only way they could cross over was if they voted provisionally.
Hall’s opinion of the matter is direct.
“My attorneys and I are adamant that these actions were a violation of Secretary of State policy and that voters were unnecessarily burdened and disenfranchised.”
Hurt disagrees that voters were denied the right to cast the ballot of their choice.
“I don’t believe it for a minute. We had cases where someone did go ahead and change parties to vote for a candidate of their choice and we had voters who said that they would not change and they would vote for the candidates on their original party ticket if they had to change and make it a matter of record for two years. This is a closed primary state and we have only upheld the procedures outlined by the Secretary of State in the handbook and that we have not abused the challenge requirements in any way whatsoever.”
Dallas Hurt's excuse of "well, some people crossed over anyway and some didn't" is smokescreen. Voters were coerced to change their minds in the ballot area. This is a clear violation of voting rights. Hurt and Jones should be called to task for this.
According to Ohio law, should the Secretary of State find that procedure has been violated, he can suspend or dismiss any Board of Election member or staff member.
In other Board of Election business, on May 30 the board discussed advertising for applications for a clerk position made vacant by the resignation of Jill Schaffer.
No official action was taken. The next meeting for the board is scheduled for June 7.