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Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner: "We Will Be Ready."

Ohio's top election official describes how she is planning for a fair presidential election in an exclusive interview with Brad Friedman.
 
 
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I first met Jennifer Brunner during the summer of 2006, at the DNC's summer meeting in Chicago were I was asked to speak to some of their attorneys about the dangers of e-voting and how their party needed to wake up to the battle they faced against this rising menace to democracy.

Brunner was running that year to replace the discredited Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell as Ohio's Secretary of State that year, as hopes for Democratic electoral wins in the Buckeye State, and indeed across the nation -- on the heels of what one Republican scandal after another -- were just beginning to reach a fevered pitch.

As one of the Democrats' great hopes, she was a keynote speaker at one of the conference's main sessions. I took the opportunity to introduce myself after she left the podium, to offer my assistance, should she need it, on matters of e-voting which had vexed Ohio in '04, and were set to get far worse in '06 and beyond.

The exchange was a quick, and even chilly one. It was, after all, back in the day when the bulk of the Democratic Party was in almost complete denial about the perils faced by the still-rising electronic menace; from the utter loss of transparency and the ability for citizens to oversee their own elections on both touch-screen and optical-scan voting machines; to the ease of tampering with such systems; to their alarming error rates and utter lack of testing by anyone; to the fact that these machines often simply failed to work at all, denying thousands, if not millions of voters of their legal franchise on Election Day.

I admit to being less than impressed with her interest in the matter back then, though to be fair, I would hear later, through the grapevine, that she was less than impressed with me in the bargain.

But that was then, and this is now -- following one Ohio election meltdown after another, and then her own version of CA Secretary of State Deborah Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom" review of all of the state's e-voting systems -- Brunner clearly has a different outlook on the nightmare of a system she would be elected to oversee in November of 2006.

The results of Ohio's landmark "Evaluation & Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards & Testing" (aptly acronymed "EVEREST") stunned Brunner, as she detailed in an exclusive interview she granted me at just after the test results were released, in late 2007. The findings were a mountain of "critical security failures" in virtually every aspect of Ohio's e-voting systems.

Since then, she's faced fired from virtually every side -- from friend and foe alike, in Ohio, from hard-right Republican partisans, to hostile election officials, to litigious and desperate voting machine companies, to stubborn Democratic-leaning public advocacy groups -- as she's scrambled to try and restore a semblance of democracy to the Buckeye State before what it certain to be the largest, and perhaps most contentious election in the state's history this November.

I had the opportunity to sit down recently, face-to-face this time, for an extended interview with Madame Secretary in Denver, during the Democratic National Convention.

While a fair number of Democratic power players at least seem to have a clue about the myriad Republican attempts to keep voters from voting this year in their ever-surging War on Democracy, concerns about e-voting remain an issue about which many Democrats remain in either complete denial, absolute cluelessness, or paralyzed-fear over the unsubstantiated belief that discussion of such concerns might frighten voters from the polls.

None of those failures of imagination or courage seem to be the case for Ohio's Secretary of State anymore (if they ever were), as she, at the very least, seemed to more clearly than ever, understand the precariousness of the entire system she has been tapped to oversee in one of America's now-most notorious swing states.

In our wide-ranging Q&A, which follows below, she and I discussed a number of noteworthy, and newsworthy, items, including:

  • Challenges and surprises she's faced since becoming SoS in 2007, even by constituencies one might think would otherwise be supportive of her;
  • Concerns about her tie-breaking decision to move Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) to an all paper ballot system, just 73 days before the state's primary election last March;
  • Directives she's issued (and will be issueing) for this year's general election, such as requiring counties to inform all voters that they may vote on a paper ballot; that there must be two lines created at polling places -- one for those who wish to vote on paper, and another for those who prefer to vote on touch-screen; the end of voting machine "sleepovers" at poll worker houses prior to election, and other new security requirements;
  • Whether or not there has ever been any accountability for so much that went wrong in 2004, in places like Warren County, where press and public were famously locked out of the counting room on Election Night, or in Knox County where the last vote was not cast at Kenyon College until 4am on the morning following Election Day;
  • Concerns about student access to polling places this year, and steps being taken to try to help assure it;
  • Whether citizens may use video cameras in the polling place to document what may go on there this year;
  • And beyond all of that: Will Ohio be ready for whatever may come this November, and will they be the Buckeye State again in 2008, or the "blackeye" state that they became in 2004.

We also discussed several complicated technical issues, pending lawsuits, the possibilities of hand-counting paper ballots in Ohio's future, and other items perhaps best suited only to the geekiest of election junkies (like myself). I've taken our discussion on those more arcane, "down-in-the-weeds" matters for use in a piece to be published separately soon.

For now then, in the following Q&A, Secretary of State Brunner explains that, even with all of the many challenges she faces, she believes that, come November 4th, Ohio "will be ready"…


"We Will Be Ready" An Exclusive Interview with OH Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner

BRAD FRIEDMAN: You've been Ohio's Secretary of State now for two years.

SEC. OF STATE JENNIFER BRUNNER: Almost.

BF: Almost. How are you enjoying it, and what's surprised you most in this process over the last two years?

JB: Enjoying it very much, it's a job I wanted to do. I'm probably the first Secretary of State in 16 years who really wanted the job. And there's a lot of political bantering that goes on, and sometimes it's more like being in hand-to-hand combat. Unfortunately, or fortunately, my role also, in three years, will be to sit on the State Apportionment Board if I'm reelected in 2010. And so right now, with the Governor and the Secretary of State being of one party, this will be the first time in 30 years that our party would have control of the Apportionment Board. So sometimes the issues that are raised by the other party have less to do with the election process and more to do with politics. But…

BF: They would say the same about you, in that case, the decisions that you're making…

JB: Well, they try. But I just want to do the job. And unfortunately, some of the laws they send to me are not a model of clarity. So I'm an attorney, have been for more than 25 years. I have great attorneys on my staff, and we also consult with the Attorney General who handles lots of litigation for us. So when we look at a piece of legislation that's been enacted into law, and we try to sort it out from the standpoint of the Executive Branch and how we administer it, sometimes the way that we translate it into action is that the legislature tells us after the fact, "That's not what we intended." So there are disagreements that occur because of that.

BF: And it's still a Republican statehouse.

JB: Correct. But I mean, we have the separation of powers, and it's not their job to tell me how to implement the laws, and it's not my job to tell them how to write them. I can make suggestions to them so that it would be easier to implement, and I try to help them and they try to tell me. But there is a clear line.

BF: Were you surprised by the politics, by so many different factions? You've got the election officials, you've got the Republicans in the legislature, you've got the election integrity advocates. All of them are probably driving you nuts. Were you surprised by the reaction that you got by any of these groups, and which has been the most challenging to deal with? And let me throw in the voting machine companies as well, in all of the competing interests here.

JB: Sometimes the role of secretary of state is being in the middle of a circular firing line. And the one thing that I may do to keep the person in front of me from shooting me, would be the very reason the person behind me would shoot me. So you can't please everyone. You try to listen to as many people as you can, try to take all that into account, and never lose site of the fact that the people that you're really try to go take care of are the voters.

BF: You've taken heat from some of your own. Folks in our own party. The ACLU even sued you in Cuyahoga [when she cast the deciding vote for a deadlocked Cuyahoga County Election Board to get rid of the touch-screens and move to paper ballots just 73 days before the Primary Election earlier this year]. Was that a surprise?

JB: What I think is the biggest surprise is that some of the groups, who were so oppressed by the previous administration, and had to fight -- sometimes, I'm sure they felt, with futility -- are attacking with the same ferociousness that they did before, when they have someone who would sit down and have a dialogue with them before they just decide to shoot off the attacks.

BF: So it's the fact that they go public with some of the complaints and the concerns, before trying to talk to you about them or work them out?

JB: I think they have a hard time realizing that it's not the same administration it was before, so that they don't have to use quite the same tactics they used before to get the results that they're seeking. Because when they used those tactics before, about as much as they really got was to get some media coverage. But they might actually get some results if we sat down and talked.

JB: And you're open to those groups to come on in, and

JB: Well, we've set up the Voting Rights Institute and created the Advisory Council on that. And while some of the folks on the Institute have said from time to time we want more input, we do the best we can. Ultimately we're responsible to the people of the state of Ohio. But for instance, on post-election audits, we've listened. We've taken a white paper from a diverse group of people. We've had a conference call, and we intend to engage them in the process even further before we issue a post-election audit directive for [November].

BF: Speaking of folks who should be your friends challenging you, they challenged you pretty hard before the primary in Cuyahoga County, when you cast the deciding vote to move from touch-screens to paper ballots [in that county]. And surprisingly, a lot of the folks that I thought would have been in favor of that move, were not. [Election Integrity advocates had argued the change would both cause chaos, coming at such short notice, and that optically-scanning paper-ballots at the county, as opposed to the precinct, was cause for concern in regard to both security and the lack of "overvote" warnings for voters] They sued you and they said there would be chaos in the primary. How do you now think that went?

JB: Actually we had, I think, 407 over-voted ballots in the presidential election primary out of somewhere around 435,000 ballots.

BF: So it wasn't the chaos that folks [had predicted]?

JB: No, it wasn't. And the board made a real effort to educate the voters about the potential for over-votes, and so it really wasn't the problem that they thought it would be.

But also, when you look at some of the problems that occurred in Florida in 2000, there were a lot of problems with over-votes because there wasn't a uniform method or instruction to determine voter intent. It was up to individual canvassing boards who were influenced a lot by politics. So we had a very specific, lengthy directive about determining voter intent which our law requires that we do. And so what a machine might initially spit out as an over-vote, when you actually look at the ballot it may be that the person did a check mark or an X instead of filling in the oval, and you could easily determine what voter intent was and it's moved out of the over-vote category.

BF: And was that their biggest concern, that without the touch-screens and without precinct-based optical scanning, there would be no way to correct for the over-votes? Was it that, or was it changing systems again, that they were

JB: No, I think it was more that [concern about over-votes], and then they tried to paint me as being calloused to the concerns of minorities and people in poverty, which nothing could be further from the truth.

But when you have 73 days to change the voting system in a jurisdiction that has over a million voters, you have to be realistic. And so knowing that the server software was crashing with 15 percent turnout in November of 2007, and I was predicting, correctly, 45 percent turnout, it just didn't seem like [a precinct-based op-scan system] was going to work in [that] primary. So we did the central count optical-scan as an interim step toward what we were using, as far as with the precinct-based scanners. What surprised us was how well the central count opti scan system actually worked for Cuyahoga County. And it essentially is less moving parts.

* * * * *

BF: Let's talk about turnout. I understand you've got a big election coming up this November. [ Laughter] I saw your directive which said that you were ordering counties that [still] use touch-screen systems to have paper ballots available to anybody who wants them, and you ordered that they should have ballots for 25 percent of the turnout from 2004 --

JB: Correct.

BF: -- available as paper ballots.

JB: Right. And we will be reimbursing them for the cost of printing those ballots.

BF: Is that going to be enough paper ballots?

JB: There will be some counties who will print more. Looking at what their traditional turnout demand is, what the trends seem to be. We do think it will be enough because Ohio has had enough elections using the touch-screen machines that there are voters who feel very comfortable with them. There are poll workers who are a lot more comfortable with setting them up, with operating them. But there are three reasons that we have the backup paper ballots.

First being if there is, if a voter is more comfortable using the backup paper ballots. I mean with everything they've read about the system, they may say, "I don't want my vote in there, I want my vote on paper where I can see it."

BF: Sure.

JB: And we've made the order that those ballots have to be counted on election night.

BF: Thank you.

JB: Second, if you have a machine malfunction, it's mis-programmed, a power outage, it allows voting to continue without interruption. And then third

BF: Except if you have only 25 percent, you're going to run through those pretty quickly in a situation like a power outage.

JB: You may, but generally there's somebody trying to get the power back up. We had some power outages in the primary, and they were used, but they weren't even close to using them up, and 10 percent was the number [required for that election].

And then the third is, we looked at what would happen in Franklin County and Knox County where Kenyon College was. And it's just a simple analysis that if you have a finite number of machines and it takes a certain amount of time to vote because you can't submit your vote till you've gone through all the screens -- if you have a lengthy ballot with lots of local issues, you can't speed up voting. It's going to take a voter so long to vote no matter what, so

BF: 'Cause they had only two machines in Kenyon College in 2004, and one of them broke down by lunch, right?

JB: Right, they broke down. So the back-up paper ballots allow the voting to continue and allow the poll workers to do something to alleviate the long lines. We've actually issued a directive that has told the DRE (touch-screen) counties that you have to plan and make provisions for having two lines at the polling place.

BF: Two lines?

JB: Two lines. They can use the same book or the same poll lists. Some have submitted information to us saying we'd like to have you approve our layout, we want a waiver from what you said, we want to do it this way. And it didn't involve two lines, and we said no.

BF: Two lines, meaning one line for paper and one line for DREs?

JB: Right.

BF: So will all the voters be notified? Do the counties have to follow this? To actually, not just make paper ballots available to anyone who wants them, but to let the voters know that those are available?

JB: There will be four signs that they have to post prominently as the voters come into the polling place. But if we were to have every poll worker ask a voter, "Do you want this or do you want this?" it would actually slow down the voting process.

BF: But the signs will be prominent saying "you may vote on paper if you wish"?

JB: Yes, yes.

BF: Good.

JB: Because we provided the boards signs in the primary, but we were easing them into what, for them, was a very big change. And counties like Mahoning County turned it into an initiative. They were very successful with it. Other counties said to their poll workers, "Don't even talk about the paper ballots," and they didn't put the signs up. So we got them through the primary, and the ballots did serve their intended purpose. But, for November, they have to be a lot more out front about it.

BF: So it's not a suggestion, it's the rule. They must post these signs this time?

JB: Yeah, and they have to be posted in a prominent location.

BF: And the counties can't just say, "Well, we're not doing that"?

JB: They would violate the law if they did that. Because by law they are required to follow the directives of the Secretary of State.

BF: So you issue a directive, that's the law?

JB: It is. And that's why I'm very careful before I issue one.

* * * * *

BF: Last time we chatted, we talked about the Warren County lockdown in 2004, where they locked out the press and the public before counting the ballots, as one of the last counties to come in [with their results on Election Night]. You said you were going to take a look at that, that it troubled you that, you know, they said there was a Homeland Security warning and in truth there wasn't. Have you gotten to take a look at that?

JB: There are a number of different personnel there. No one has been able to provide us with an explanation for that. But what

BF: That's troubling, isn't it?

JB: It is very troubling. And what we're trying to do is to look ahead of time at warning signs that could show us some potential kinds of trouble. And not just trouble in a particular board of election within the staff -- because we're giving them so many instructions and guidelines that they're going to have to stay busy focusing on all the preparation we need to do -- but as we hear things of potential shenanigans by third parties, by outside forces, we intend to look into it, we intend to involve the Attorney General, and if we have to go to court to get an injunction ahead of time, we'll do it.

BF: Let me ask that in a tougher way then. Don't we already have advance notice of the shenanigans, because you had them four years ago? And if we wait until, for example, Election Day -- you know, when that lockdown happened, it was Election Night -- there's chaos all over the state, as far as things go, isn't that a little too late to do something about it?

In other words, we know they did something in '04 that seems to me to have no legitimacy whatsoever -- locking out the public, claiming the Homeland Security thing -- don't we already know we've got a problem in Warren County and shouldn't we already be doing something in advance to keep that from happening, by holding somebody accountable? Isn't that the best way to keep those shenanigans from happening again, rather than waiting for them?

JB: Well, we had in place, for the primary, a very lengthy, detailed, specific directive about the rights and responsibilities of observers. So I'm going to assume that the presidential campaigns of both of the parties, and the other candidate campaigns, are going to be putting observers at county boards of elections. Then, if the Warren County Board of Elections or any board of elections tried to do what occurred in 2004, which is to just lock everyone out, it would violate the law. I mean, the

BF: You think that would concern them? I mean, given what they did?

JB: I do, because we are getting cooperation and there's close monitoring going on at that board. And I know that if that were the case, we would get a phone call. And we would actually…we have the ability to call law enforcement at the time. The sheriff's office is required to be there and to assist with election matters on Election Day. There's a state statute. So I don't look for something like that that would be initiated by a board of elections to occur in 2008.

BF: Well, some of these counties, 56 out of 88 well, all of the counties were ordered to keep both voted and unvoted ballots from the 2004 election because of the King Lincoln Bronzeville case [alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act in the 2004 election by former Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell]. Yet 56 out of 88 either destroyed or lost some or all of those ballots.

JB: Brad, I have to tell you. The order came down a couple days after the expiration of the record retention schedule. So there's a small handful that legitimately did destroy the ballots because there was no order in place. The bigger fault with what the boards did, lay with the Blackwell administration. Because it went to Ken Blackwell to tell the boards they had [to follow the court order and retain those ballots]. But the only notification the boards got was an e mail from a paralegal for the chief counsel saying, "The chief counsel wants you to see this." No explanation. And that was unacceptable.

BF: But didn't we have some situations where counties, their excuse for having lost the ballots -- I think there was one famous one, "they spilled coffee on them" -- now, what are ballots from 2004 doing out by the coffee maker? Aren't they supposed to be in a vault somewhere? I mean, on its face, doesn't that tell us

JB: It'll make you feel better to know that we've actually released four directives on security: one on the board of elections offices, one on the transport of ballots and materials, another on security at the polling locations, another on server security. And the boards of elections are we issued a directive, I believe, yesterday that will require them to submit to us a security and risk mitigation plan. So

BF: And I saw that. That was the one that outlawed voting machine "sleepovers" [at poll worker houses prior to the election]?

JB: Because we were looking at this whole issue of security, that the natural progression would be to say you can't take voting machines home or leave them in your car for the weekend or take them to your office, because we've got a huge hole in the chain of custody. We don't know what happened to them during that period of time. And if we're looking to protect the equipment and the supplies from temperature, humidity, moisture, dust -- I don't think keeping them in your house or your garage or your car is going to really cut it.

BF: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, we know also that if you get inappropriate access for a minute or two, you can put a virus in there. Princeton showed that. And then you was it you who gave this infamous example of a poll worker who took machines home and actually voted on one of them 'cause she didn't think she'd have time the next day to vote or something like that?

JB: Yes. This is a story that one of our directors told me. And when he told me, it was my impression that it was one of his poll workers. When it got out into the media, he said, "Oh, it wasn't one of my poll workers, it was someplace else." But it was detectable because when they went to do the zero totals on the machine [on the morning of the election], there were votes on it already. But I think that leaves the public a bit disconcerted.

BF: Yeah, that a poll worker can vote at home or have anybody vote at their house?! Well, okay. So it's good news that you've canceled the sleepovers. Thank you for that, by the way. It's a word I believe I've coined and I'm proud of it.

JB: Yeah, that's a word that really catches people's attention.

BF: It does, doesn't it? They're pretty horrified to hear about that practice. So that's good, we've ended it there, and again, that's a directive so the counties have to do it, they have to end the practice?

JB: Right, and what we've done is, we've there's 23 counties that were using that practice. It probably is a throwback to the old punch card ballots where the poll workers came and picked up the materials and took them to the polling locations.

BF: It didn't matter quite as much back then because you couldn't game an entire election with a stack of punch cards at your house.

JB: Hopefully not. No.

BF: So that's good, end of the sleepovers. But, they're still going to be allowed to deploy those machines for days at a time to the polling places where they'll sort of sit unattended?

JB: A number of the boards have cages with locks where the machines are stacked in the cages.

BF: At the polling place, in a cage. Okay.

JB: At the polling place. In other places, they'll be in locked rooms at the polling location. And then in other situations, you will actually see them, the machines, on carts with the seal or a lock that are also shrink wrapped on top of all of that. And I know one of the things we talked about in one county was where there was actually a way to mark the shrink wrap, and if it's been tampered with they can tell. So if they're going to be left in a location with a memory card in it for any length of time, they have to get a waiver from our office and explain how these are going to be secured and we have to approve it.

BF: One of my favorite election directors in the whole wide world, Ion Sancho from Leon County (Tallahassee) Florida, when he learned about the sleepovers he said, you know, "This is crazy, we're not going to do them." And he now delivers his voting machines on Election Morning in steel cages. Is that feasible in Ohio?

JB: At this point, from a funding standpoint, it's not in every county. But by having the boards of elections explain to us what their process is -- especially if there's a machine with a memory card delivered in the machine -- then we're going to know what that process is. We're going to have approved what that process is so that we can ensure security.

BF: Any heads up you can give me as far as new directives that are still on the way?

JB: I think you will, you'll see some things having to do with um, the advancement projects' concern about vote caging and about the required holding of hearings before some is removed from the rolls based on a challenge.

BF: Good.

JB: You're likely to see something about posting of the results at the precincts.

BF: Thank you.

JB: And there'll be a number of other miscellaneous things.

* * * * *

BF: I've been asked to ask you about concerns about student voting. Lots of the Ohio students, who don't have state ID, live in dorms so they don't have a utility bill [to use for voter ID]. Will those students be able to vote as residents of Ohio? Or will they have to vote on provisional ballots?

JB: We're doing everything we can to increase the number and types of documents that can serve as ID. If there's a communication from the state university to a student at their university, whether it's by e mail or by letter, that suffices as an ID, because it has the student's name and their campus address. If that's where they're registered to vote, that's all they need. It falls into the category of "other government documents."

BF: A letter from a…?

JB: A state university.

BF: What about private universities?

JB: Well, Oberlin College contacted us before the primary or sometime earlier this year and the question was raised: "Since our students are living in the dorms and they're paying, they're essentially paying utilities because they live in the dorms, if we issue them a statement showing that they pay their utilities, will that suffice as a utility bill?" and we said yes.

BF: So they have to pay utilities to the dorm?

JB: If they pay their room fee, their utilities are included in it. So, if the university issues them statements saying, "As a result of your paying for your room fees, your utilities are paid," that suffices.

BF: Are the universities issuing those letters to those students, as far as you know?

JB: We're aware of at least one college that has.

BF: Might that be another announcement you might want to make to universities, publicly, you know, "Please issue these to students so that they may vote"?

JB: I think we've been working with some of the organizations like the associations for the private colleges and universities, making them aware of that.

The same thing applies at a nursing home facility, because an older person living in a nursing home is not likely they may not have a driver's license, their utilities are covered in their cost of living there, so if the institutional facility, if it's an institution resident and that facility issues a statement showing that because you paid whatever fees it is to live here, you paid your utilities, that will suffice.

* * * * *

BF: I know it's the question that everybody probably asks you, but given all of this stuff that we've gone through, are you guys ready? Is Ohio going to be able to handle everything that could potentially come up this year with this likely extraordinarily high turnout?

JB: We've been focusing heavily on preparation and emphasizing partnership with our boards of election in preparing for the elections. We will be ready. Most if not all of our directives will be issued [before mid-September]. That will give boards plenty of time to understand what it is that we expect in our office from those boards, because we're looking at it from the statewide standpoint, which I think is in the interest of the voters, ensuring that we've got a process of accountability and transparency.

Plus, our philosophy has been to provide support to the boards of elections through good legal counsel, good regional liaisons who are there on a frequent basis, through lots of communication. We've updated the laws for them. We've provided more training for them. Poll workers will have we've got one unit just for assisting the polls for training that we're rolling out to the boards -- and included with that will be a flip chart that every poll worker in the state will get which gives them the basics of what they need to know about things like voter ID, provisional voting, setting up a polling location, what to do in the event of a court order, how to close the polling location. We now have bipartisan transport of ballots and memory cards back to the boards, so I do think that we'll be ready.

BF: So you're ready, the Blackeye…[ laughs] the blackeye…the Buckeye state will not be the blackeye state this year?

JB: We think we're ready. And you know, unfortunately, we were tagged with long lines. I mean, that's how we were identified, as the state that had horribly long lines in 2004. And I hope that other states that rely on heavily on DREs (touch-screens) would look at our experience and see that back up paper ballots are the best practice. It's not my intent to create a de facto second paper ballot voting system, it's simply a way to make sure that no one is turned away from the polling place, and everyone gets a chance to vote who's eligible to vote.

BF: Anything BRAD BLOG readers can do to help?

JB: We still need poll workers in Ohio. So if they want to be a poll worker, some of the boards use poll workers as troubleshooters to travel to different boards of elections to help with technical issues. And if they're interested in being an observer on Election Day, they need to work through the political parties. One interesting thing is because of the Ohio legislature's failure to make changes to our law for minor party access to the ballot, the federal district court in Columbus is essentially allowing access to nearly any third party.

BF: So Greens, Libertarians, they can also become poll watchers.

JB: They would be able to.

BF: Are they allowed to take video cameras into the polling places?

JB: I think we're going to have to look at the directive. There's a question in my mind about that, because there have to be some reasonable limitations so that they're not interfering with what's going on at the polling place.

BF: 'Cause you know, four of my own votes flipped when I voted in June [in Los Angeles]. I don't know if you saw that.

JB: I did, I did.

BF: And it was actually the fact that I had a video of the ballot that they were able to figure out what went wrong and why that happened. They were able to look at the photos of my void ballot and figure out what went wrong. Eyes and ears, transparency. I hope you will take a look at that, because I think that will help, you know? I don't want to hear reports this year of, you know, people saying their vote flipped and then people saying, "Oh, you're crazy or just a conspiracy theorist." When in fact they can bring their cell phone, videotape the darn thing if that's what happens.

JB: Yeah. I know at least with poll workers, we want the poll workers working polls so we don't want them sitting there reading the newspaper, using their laptops, talking on their cell phones. But if a voter comes in and wants to take a picture of their voting experience on their own voting machine, I don't know that there's any rule that would stop them. Transcribed by Stephen Heller of Velvet Revolution

(Editor's note: Brad Friedman also discussed several complicated technical issues, pending lawsuits, the possibilities of hand-counting paper ballots in Ohio's future. That portion of the Q&A has now been published by ComputerWorld here.

Brad Friedman is an investigative journalist/blogger and the creator/publisher of The BRAD BLOG , which has been focusing for some years on the many issues involved in election integrity. He can currently be seen in a number of documentaries now in release around the country, including David Earnhardt's Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections , and the just-released Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story , by documentarian Patty Sharaf.