Still, it’s time to put at least some of the conspiracy theories to rest in Ohio. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner hopes to do that through professional testing of electronic voting machines used in the state.
Never mind that such testing was undertaken by Brunner’s predecessor, former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. He was a Republican, after all. Some Democrat critics have accused him of attempting to establish an elections system that benefits Republicans. Perhaps a new round of testing under Brunner — a Democrat — can lay such accusations to rest.
The simple facts of life concerning honest elections in Ohio are that it would be virtually impossible to rig the system to favor any candidate or party. That is because county election boards are composed of representatives of both political parties. And, of course, the process of buying new voting machines and installing them in county and statewide systems has been a very public one, scrutinized every step of the way.
But, again, all that happened under a Republican secretary of state. Now that Brunner, a Democrat, is in office, she wants more assurances that voting machines and systems are secure against tampering. We don’t blame her — if only because the same type of conspiracy theorists who leveled accusations against Blackwell are liable to make claims against her office.
That said, Brunner should be exceedingly leery of doing anything that might provide ammunition for her critics. Fortunately, the state Controlling Board has prevented her from such a misstep.
Brunner, who initially estimated that it would cost about $500,000 to conduct a new round of voting machine testing, asked the board to waive competitive bidding for $1.8 million in such work. That raised red flags among some Controlling Board members. Anytime a public official seeks an exemption from competitive bidding requirements, it means that he or she has someone in mind and wants to ensure that the government contract goes to that person, company or organization.
On Monday, Controlling Board members voted to delay a decision on Brunner’s request. Some explained that they want to ensure that the testing process is an objective one — not one with preordained results either in favor of or against voting machines being examined.
Board members are correct in taking that approach — and Brunner should be happy to go along with them. The new round of election machine testing needs to be accomplished in a manner that gives no one any excuse for raising questions about whether the process was rigged. Ohioans need to be able — finally — to put an end to speculation along those lines.