Tell me what you think of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and I'll tell you your politics. If you love her, you are a mainstream Democrat. If you think she's well meaning but doesn't do enough to secure, you are a Dem, but farther out on the left wing. If she's a useful idiot duped by the ongoing Diebold/Rove conspiracy to steal elections, you are a Green (genus Fitrakis.) If you don't have much of an opinion one way or the other, you are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and/or one of those wise people who doesn't pay attention to politics until about mid-October.
And if you gnash your teeth at the very mention of her name, you are a Republican.
The obvious explanation for the Brunner Rorschach is 2010 reapportionment. If Gov. Ted Strickland and Secretary Brunner retain their seats, Democrats will control the reapportionment board which will influence what the legislature looks like which will in turn determine who Congressional districts are drawn. That's important any decade, but assuming Ohio will lose two Congressional seats as projected, it's crucial. At her Akron Press Club appearance Thursday, Brunner acknowledged the importance of her seat to both sides and noted dryly "It becomes a little prickly sometimes."
Throughout her presentation and the Q&A after, Brunner cited the work she is doing to make voting easier and more reliable for Ohioans. Her office is turning out directives to Boards of Elections, in an attempt to offer what she calls a library of resources for a variety of contingencies. She's working to get voter rolls online so people can verify that their registration is up to date. She is requiring counties to have backup paper ballots in case machines go down or lines get too long (touchscreen machine voting routinely runs longer.) She's rolled out uniform poll worker training, in part to make sure workers across the state enforce rules consistently.
Again and again Brunner talks about working proactively to guarantee people the right to vote. Which offers a second explanation for why she vexes Republican so. Democrats and Republicans simply have different philosophies about how to govern voting. For Democrats, voting is a fundamental right that the government should take pains to guarantee, if not encourage. For Republicans, voting is a privilege to be earned by just following a few simple rules, dammit, and pulled out of reach of anyone who even looks like he might commit voter fraud.
It is again, easy to dismiss all this as simple politics. Historically Democrat's coalition have included more population segments susceptible to vote suppression -- primarily poor folks who have less job flexibility and minorities for whom voting is associated with a long history of intimidation (these are the sorts of voters you get when you are the elite
- I forgot my camera, so a crappy image from my cell phone will have to do. As you can see, she spoke next to an open nuclear reactor.
- She began the talk with an anecdote related to her that some professer told someone from Uganda that he was from Ohio and the Ugandan asked if that was where Blackwell was from, and "Isn't he the one who stole the election for Bush?" Her point was that Ohio shouldn't have election problems that make news halfway around the world.
- Stolen Election Guy wasn't there, nor was his Republican counterpart, Rampant Voter Fraud Guy. At least they didn't ask questions, and the odds of either Guy sitting on his hands for an hour are at least as long as the odds of a valid Columbus Dispatch poll.
- Notwithstanding that, Brunner talked quite a bit about security. She is trying to get rid of touchscreen machines because, among other things, they aren't secure. She's also getting rid of "sleepovers."
- She's predicting an 80% turnout in November.
- She lauds Summit Co. for "superior" vote security. She also noted that she has to break BoE ties and some in places -- again Summit -- the boards deadlock a lot.