Last Sunday, the Plain Dealer published the below editorial about SoS Brunner, written obviously from a Republican bias. If the facts stripped of bias are true, however, might this still be considered "too much" meddling from a state's chief election official, especially in a state where all election officials are legally to serve at the Secretary of State's pleasure?
Regarding OSU law Professor Foley's quote at the end : "Election management is an area where appearance is reality." - might it also be possible that a major difference in the public's perception of the fairness of one SoS administration to the next, lies not only in the party alignment of the perceivers, but also greatly in the administration's ability to create a convincing apparent-reality?
Hands-on, to a fault
Secretary of State Brunner is much too willing to meddle in partisan affairs in places far from her Columbus office
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Ohio's highest court had to remind Jennifer Brunner this week that voters chose her to be their secretary of state - not the chairman of the Summit County Republican Party.
And with that reprimand, Brunner, every bit the Democrat, moved a bit closer to cementing her reputation as an overly partisan overseer of Ohio's elections.
After Brunner essentially fired longtime Akron-area GOP boss Alex Arshinkoff from the Summit County Board of Elections earlier this year, the party's executive committee named former Hudson City Council President Brian Daley as Arshinkoff's replacement. But Brunner wasn't satisfied. She rejected Daley's appointment and instead named Akron attorney Don Varian to fill the Republican seat on the four-member panel.
Not only was Varian's appointment applauded - and perhaps suggested - by prominent Akron-area Democrats, but Varian was also involved in what turned out to be a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to remove Arshinkoff as Summit County's powerful and polarizing Republican boss.
In a 4-3 ruling that itself may have had political overtones, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered Brunner to remove Varian from the vote board and to comply with the wishes of the Summit County GOP and appoint Daley to the job.
Brunner is a talented officeholder who resigned a safe judicial seat in Columbus to seek the job of secretary of state.
And from her Republican predecessor, Ken Blackwell, she inherited an often inefficient, poorly run election system.
So if the Summit County mess was the first time Brunner had played politics with the operation of a county election board, she'd probably earn a pass on any suggestion that she had overstepped her authority in this case. But Brunner's penchant for meddling with local election officials has become habitual.
Blackwell was a big-picture intruder who tried to use issues like gay marriage to influence the outcomes of elections. Brunner has become a micro-meddler with a disturbing tendency to mess with Republicans involved in local election matters. Republicans in Summit, Cuyahoga, Allen, Franklin, Lawrence and Hardin counties have experienced it. And voters throughout Ohio should be worried about it.
In February, Brunner fired Allen County's respected elections director, Keith Cunningham, from the state's Board of Voting Machine Examiners. The reason: Cunningham had the audacity to disagree with her on her proposal to decertify touch-screen voting systems. A few weeks later, Brunner thumbed her nose at the public's right to know by trying to avoid testifying in the Summit County case. Failing that, she tried to keep her testimony private.
Earlier this year, when concerns were first being noted about Brunner's partisanship, Ohio State University law school Professor Edward Foley warned, "Election management is an area where appearance is reality.
It's not good enough just to be fair. You've got to be perceived as fair."
Brunner is on her way toward failing the perception test.
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