Monday, October 20, 2008

Cooler Heads Prevail In "Voter Fraud" Investigation

My blogging will be light this week, as I'm in Florida, enjoying my first vacation in about 30 months. I've been following the story of grand jury subpoenas about which Griff blogged below, and it's good to see a sense of order restored to the process today.

The Enquirer reports that HamCo Prosecutor Joe Deters has recused his office from the investigation. HamCo Common Pleas Judge Norbert A. Nadel, in his role as "presiding judge," has appointed Mike O'Neill, a young Cincinnati attorney, as the special prosecutor for the case. I applaud Judge Nadel (a Republican-endorsed judge running unopposed to retain his seat this year) on his choice.

I also applaud Mr. Deters for his decision to step back from the investigation. Strictly speaking, Mr. Deters would not operate under a conflict of interest in pursuing voter registration or voter fraud prosecutions. As he pointed out to the Enquirer, he has no way of knowing how any particular voter voted. (And there's no evidence that he cherry-picked voters from precincts that leaned one way or the other in past elections.) But he was correct to recognize the appearance of impropriety and let someone else handle this important issue. (Remember: appearance of impropriety is not the standard under which lawyers operate; that's reserved for judges. Lawyers only have to "conflict themselves out" if there's an actual conflict, not merely the appearance of one.) It's important for the county and the nation that the election be handled transparently and administered without partisan politics coming into play.

As for Mr. O'Neill: he was a year ahead of me at UC Law. He's an intelligent, thoughtful guy. When he was a prosecutor (under Mike Allen), he was well-respected by both those in his own office and the defense bar. Mr. O'Neill is the kind of lawyer who knows when he has a case and when he doesn't. He has an even, calm temperment that makes him well-suited to navigate this emotionally-charged issue. And I like his early comments to the Enquirer (at least as reported by that paper), that seem to signal that he's more concerned with getting the right result rather than a fast one.

So my advice: everyone should take a deep breath, sit back, and let this process work. This isn't about voter suppression--the steps former SoS Ken Blackwell took in 2004 were far more likely to keep voters away from the polls than is the investigation of a few individuals with anomalous registration records.

And keep repeating to yourself: only 2 more weeks.....

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