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The Battleground 2012: A Conversation with Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner

by Allison Handler

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 8, 2012.

Jennifer Brunner was elected in 2006 and served a term as Ohio’s first female Secretary of State. During that time, she oversaw the contentious 2008 presidential election and implemented voting practices that allowed a record turnout of voters to cast their ballots. In 2010, she ran in the primary election for the United States Senate. She currently practices law in Columbus and is the author of a new book, “Cupcakes and Courage”. Continue reading

Changes Afoot in Ohio: A Conversation with Jennifer Brunner

By Allison Handler

Jennifer Brunner was elected in 2006 and served a term as Ohio’s first female Secretary of State. During that time, she oversaw the contentious 2008 presidential election and implemented voting practices that allowed a record turnout of voters to cast their ballots. In 2010, she ran in the primary election for the United States Senate. She currently practices law in Columbus and is the author of a new book, “Cupcakes and Courage”.

Ohio is facing several voting-related challenges this election cycle, from early voting to provisional ballot disputes. What are some other election practices that worry you?

Jon Husted recently issued a directive that if someone fills in the wrong information on an absentee ballot, the only way the voter can be reached regarding the mistake is through a letter in the mail. Even if the voter gets notice of the mistake in time to correct it before the election, they can only make the correction by filling out a specific form.

The priority instead should be to make sure everyone’s vote counts. What if there is a mistake then made on the form? Of course it is important to get the correct information. But there are so many pitfalls to correcting mistakes by mail with tight deadlines. And now the only way to notify voters of mistakes is by mail, so there will likely be many mistakes that may not be corrected and may prevent votes from being counted. Husted would have been better doing nothing than issuing that directive. Continue reading

News Brief: A Fox in the Henhouse

by Allison Handler

Though Ohio’s U.S. House district lines have been approved since September, it was not until February 17th that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that those lines would remain in place for the 2012 elections. Much controversy has surrounded the lines, with claims from Democrats that the redistricting map was gerrymandered to favor the GOP. John Husted, Ohio Secretary of State, has called the state’s line-drawing system “partisan and dysfunctional.” Nevertheless, the Supreme Court based its ruling on timing; the Democrats “unreasonably delayed” the filing of their suit until 96 days after the districts had already been approved.

The redistricting scheme has famously left two veteran liberal incumbents running against each other: Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich. In addition to this high profile contest, the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting said the new map, developed last year when Republicans controlled four of the five seats of the Apportionment Board, reduces the number of competitive legislative districts and increases the number of safe Republican districts.

With primary elections only two weeks away, a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Democrats would have required postponed elections. Logistically, the doubt cast over the redistricting lines has led to some insecurity among candidates regarding where exactly they should be campaigning. Such controversies will be put aside for the upcoming primary, but the Supreme Court has agreed to evaluate the district map again for future elections. The lawsuit charged that GOP line drawing violated Article 11 of the state constitution, which requires that the districts be compact and contiguous and that local units of government not be split unnecessarily. The map divides 51 counties, 108 townships, 55 cities and 41 wards for a total of 255 divisions, according to the lawsuit.

The experience has prompted several advocacy organizations, like the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause Ohio, to band together in coalition to improve the way Ohio draws its districts. Known as Voters First Ohio, the group aims to create, by ballot drive, the Ohio Independent Redistricting Commission. The Commission would be charged with drawing lines for the 2014 election. This plan is meant to assuage some of the damage done by the 2011 redistricting in time to affect elections prior to 2021, when the state will undergo redistricting again after the next census.

“The [2011] plan was secretly drawn, the public hearings were a sham and it’s very clear that the sole goal was to maximize partisan advantage,” said Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Professor Daniel Tokaji, one of the leaders of the coalition. “It was the exact opposite of a fair process — you’d be hard-pressed to find a place where the process or end product was uglier than Ohio.”

Allison Handler is a first-year law student at William & Mary.

permalink:http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/2012/02/29/newsbrief-oh-redistricting

Waugh wrote up the occasion in his journal:a two day visit to see what ann essaynara.com has been up to.

News Brief: Texas Supreme Court rejects redistricting maps

by Allison Handler

The Supreme Court has rejected redistricting maps drawn by a Texas federal court. The judicially-created maps were created as a response to the Texas legislature’s failure to comply with Section 5 of the Voting rights Act. However, the Supreme Court decision throws the future of the redistricting map into question as the 2012 elections approach. According to reporting by the New York Times, the new map may not differ significantly from the one created by the Texas court, one which some say favors representation of Hispanic communities and the Democrats. The initial map proposed by the state legislature favored Republicans, but was never submitted to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance.

There may not be enough time before the election to prepare the maps appropriately. The Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott hopes to have interim maps in place by the end of January so that the state’s primary can take place on April 3rd. Abbott moved the federal court conference on the issue to January 27, ahead of schedule. The date of the primary has already been moved back from March 6th to the current April date, though it is not clear whether the state will be able to hold the election by April either. Continue reading

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