Secretary of state bidders address election issues, voter concerns

Andrew Hampp

Secretary of State candidates Jennifer Brunner and Greg Hartmann don’t just want to bring voters to the polls for their general election Nov. 7. They would like to see improvements in the voting process as well.

Brunner, the Democratic candidate, said in a speech at the Kent V.F.W. Hall on March 22 that voter registration problems during the fall 2004 elections got slightly out of hand. She said major cities such as Toledo lost votes due to provisional ballots, although election officials were unable to quantify how many.

“This had the potential of there being fist fights,” she told the crowd. “If someone tells a voter, ‘I’m sorry, you can’t vote because of provisional ballots,’ it’s not going to be pretty.”

“We should elect a secretary of state who’s going to let people vote no matter who they are.”

Republican candidate Hartmann said in a phone interview that voter-related issues can easily be resolved on site.

“We need to run our elections on a local level,” he said. “Mandates shouldn’t be coming from Columbus on how those should be run.”

While both candidates expressed similar concerns with previous Ohio elections, their political backgrounds are markedly different from each other.

Brunner is a former judge in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in Columbus and has also served as legislative counsel for the Ohio Office of Secretary of State.

Hartmann currently serves as the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in Cincinnati and was selected by President Bush to be Hamilton County’s chairman of the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign in 2004.

Brunner said in her Kent appearance that her duty as a judge was to make sure people got a fair hearing.

“The reason I became a judge was because I was always the kid that couldn’t stand it when things weren’t fair,” she said. “I want to bring this to the state of Ohio and clean up our elections.”

Brunner also wrote a letter to Gov. Bob Taft, asking him to veto the recently passed House Bill 3, which requires Ohio voters to show identification in order to vote. Hartmann, however, was in favor of the bill.

“I support the requirement that voters show some form of identification at polls,” he said. “There’s no more important right than the right to vote. But if we have fraud ballots cast, it lessens the support in the House (of Representatives).”

Hartmann added that increasing voter turnout will also be a priority of his campaign.

“There’s not enough people voting in Ohio,” he said. “As a member of the next generation of leadership in Ohio, we need to be getting young people to participate in the process.

“We’re going to be more involved with universities, in schools, getting people involved as poll workers, even though the average age of poll workers is 63. Getting people engaged in the process is part of my job.”

Hartmann has no competition from other Republicans for secretary of state following the resignation of state representative Jim Trakas. If elected, Hartmann would continue the Republican occupancy of his office, following J. Kenneth Blackwell. Brunner criticized several of Blackwell’s directives during the 2004 presidential election, but Hartmann expressed his support for his fellow Republican.

“I think he’s done a good job,” Hartmann said of Blackwell. “He went through a very challenging presidential election and did a good job of standing up to out-of-state interests. I will continue that work.”

Brunner closed her March 22 speech with another anecdote from her youth that she thought qualified her for her desired position.

“I was the kid they made untangle the Christmas tree lights, so I think I can deal with an election,” she joked.

Contact public affairs reporter Andrew Hampp at [email protected]