Breaking late tonight on the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's blog comes news that the Summit County, Ohio, Republican Party Chair, Alex Arshinkoff, is being removed from his position on the county Elections Board by Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.
According to the report, Boss Arshinkoff has been running the party machine out of the county election office, which even Republican State Senator Kevin Coughlin --- who is currently the first to vie for Arshinkoff's job as party chairman during his 30-year reign --- says has led to his having "abused his power...abused his position [and his having] abused employees at the board to strengthen his grip on the local party apparatus."
Arshinkoff becomes the latest in a series of Board of Elections officials who served under former Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell to face either criminal sentences or disciplinary action since Brunner has taken office.
Writes Michael O'Malley and Laura Johnston at the P-D tonight...
"It would be inappropriate to have him serve longer," Brunner said.
Brunner said Arshinkoff, an old-style political boss, was running his GOP machine out of elections board offices, threatening and intimidating board workers who balked at his orders.
In a letter to Arshinkoff, she wrote: "Credible claims indicate that you have berated staff and created a hostile work environment in which board employees have endured coercion if not outright threats."
Republican state Sen. Kevin Coughlin, who is leading the first challenge to Arshinkoff's 30 years as the county's Republican party chairman, commended Brunner's move.
"I think that it validates what we've been saying, that Alex Arshinkoff is not a leader that Republicans can be proud of," said Coughlin, of Cuyahoga Falls. "He has abused his power. He has abused his position. He has abused employees at the board to strengthen his grip on the local party apparatus."
It's not the first time Brunner has exercised her power to remove county Election Officials since taking office in 2007. Shortly after taking over the job from the controversial and corrupt former Secretary of State Blackwell, Brunner fired the entire Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Election Board, headed by state GOP Boss Bob Bennett.
In March of 2007, two Cuyahoga Election Officials were sentenced to 18 months in prison for having rigged the 2004 Presidential recount in the county. The decision was remanded for retrial on a technicality, and the two woman were later given suspended sentences after pleading no contest before the second trial could begin.
Last month Brunner's office announced an investigation of improprieties by the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, as led by Republican Matt Damschroder, who was previously docked for 30 days pay, during the Blackwell era, for having accepted a $10,000 "donation" from a lobbyist representing the Diebold voting machine company and then passing it on to Republican officials.
Also last month, Damschroder's deputy, Michael Hackett, plead guilty to personally profiting from a contract for county voting machine equipment. Hackett, who had resigned in wake of the charges, was sentenced to 180 days in jail, but was given a suspended sentence by the judge.
Former SoS Blackwell had become infamous for claiming corruption could not possibly take place on Buckeye State election boards due to the fact that each of them is supposedly represented by two Democrats and two Republicans each.
However, Ohio Election Integrity advocates and whistleblowers have argued that many of the Democratic appointees may have been little more than DINO's (Democrats in name only), since some had apparently never voted in a Democratic Primary election until just prior to being appointed to the boards by Blackwell.
Brunner has come under fire herself from Republicans, Democrats, and Election Integrity experts alike for recommendations made in the wake of her recent landmark EVEREST report on electronic voting systems. The report, created by a private security lab along with computer scientists and security experts from four different academic institutions, found --- yet again --- that every e-voting system in use in Ohio was highly vulnerable to "critical security failures," easy manipulation, and frequent error.
The BRAD BLOG featured an exclusive interview with Brunner, the first such in-depth conversation after the release of the report's findings last December, in which we asked her about many of those concerns.
Last month Brunner announced that all voters in Ohio would be entitled to vote on paper ballots, if they wished, in the upcoming Presidential Primary elections in the state. The decision brought a court challenge from Republican Election officials, though one of those challenges was recently dismissed by a circuit court judge.
The state's 2008 Presidential Primary --- which could well determine the Democratic nominee for President --- is scheduled for March 4th. This could get ugly. Again.