Editorial: Working together to guard elections

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So few things are actually bipartisan these days that it is truly worth celebrating when Republicans and Democrats find ways to work together, even if that often does come easier at the state level. So efforts in Columbus to provide more than $114 million to ease the burden on county election boards that must purchase expensive new voting equipment is worthy of recognition — doubly so because many local officials were involved in the process.

An amended Ohio Senate Bill 135, which has bipartisan support, proposes providing the money to help replace and update voting equipment across the state, which hasn’t seen a major overhaul in more than 10 years. Funding will be based in large part on the number of registered voters and with more than 61,000, Ashtabula would expect to see the state pick up between 75 and 80 percent of the cost. Initial estimates put the price tag at $1 million — so while something in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $250,000 is nothing for the county to sneeze at, it’s far better than the full bill if the state had stuck them with an unfunded mandate.

With this all-too-rare bipartisan support, the bill could pass this year with funding to follow in 2019 — which is crucial to allow enough time to have new equipment in place for the 2020 presidential election. Some pine for the “good old days” of paper ballots, fearful of machines being hacked. But before we had Russians, we had hanging chads in Florida, which was the original reason states went digital over the last two decades. Despite how we view hacking today, stuffing ballot boxes and election fraud was actually much easier in the paper-ballot era, but new equipment continues to be developed and helps our elections be more secure. Plus, dedicated election workers on both sides of the aisle at the local level are the true guardians of our elections.

In fact, on that local level, we’re proud of the work done to help make Senate Bill 135 a possibility. Duane Feher, deputy director of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections and head of the Ashtabula County Democrats, is a member of a state task force created in 2013 to examine Ohio’s voting machine inventory. The task force is a joint initiative of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Election Officials. And one member of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio board of directors is Ashtabula County Commissioner Casey Kozlowski, a Republican. But party affiliation doesn’t matter when it comes to securing our elections, and we’re pleased to see local voices working together for the good of the state and county

This is the way government ought to work more often. In fairness, at the local level it often is how government functions, but the higher up the ladder you climb the more that cooperation found on the local level gets forgotten. Let’s hope we continue to see more examples of government in action than inaction.

Originally published by the Ashtabula Star Beacon on March 22 

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