The Ohio Board of Elections will spend $240,000 to help Cuyahoga County fill in bubbles. Its goal is to gently ease voters away from touch-screen ballots — which we spent a lot of money on, but unfortunately don't work — and back to those little cards that you used for tests in high school.
The cash will provide for TV spots about filling in bubbles, radio spots about filling in bubbles, and junk mail about filling in bubbles. "Actually, we would like to call them voter-education messages, because it's a little more descriptive," says Mike West of the Board of Elections.
Though it would seem a rather expensive way to idiot-proof an election, other regions have encountered troubles with this basic way of voting. "People have a tendency to put a check mark in the bubble," says West. "Or sometimes instead of a check mark, they put an X over the bubble." And that means computers can't read the votes.
One might presume the problems center on elderly voters, who left school in the '40s and '50s, and aren't quite hip to this age-old methodology for taking sociology tests. But it's actually a huge improvement over the Diebold touch-screen machines, which former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell ordered counties to purchase a few years back.
At the time, the machines were known to be vulnerable to hackers and magnets, yet Diebold was writing plenty of checks to Republican bigwigs. And checks, quite naturally, speak louder than honest elections.
So Cuyahoga County spent $21 million on the Diebold machines, only to discover that — surprise! — they were likely engineered by scabs. Two years later, the county's been forced to scrap the machines and spend another two mil to return to the bubble method.
But there's an upside to spending $240,000 on bubble education. At least our mistakes are getting much less expensive.
In early January, Mayor Frank Jackson unveiled his grand plan to rid Cleveland's streets of guns by starting an anti-firearms unit and shaking down suspected bad guys across the city.
The people rejoiced, for the announcement was proof that A) someone at City Hall actually had an idea and B) the Invisible Mayor hadn't been murdered, since no one had heard from him in months.
Yet arch-nemesis and police union chief Steve Loomis isn't impressed with the mayor's new sense of initiative. He mocks Jackson's "bring it on" bravado, seeing him as another lightweight concerned more with headlines than making things happen.
"If you're going to go on an offensive against criminals, why would you warn them first?" asks Loomis. "Why would you advertise that, other than for your own gain? These fuckin' criminals aren't stupid. It's a sound bite that sounds good, and has no substance."
Of course, Jackson and Loomis aren't exactly close. The union chief has been trying for months to get a sit-down with the mayor, but Jackson has ignored the requests. (Crime fighting 101: The good guys should probably be talking to each other.) And Loomis insists nothing can be accomplished until more cops are put on the streets — or at least the present force is allowed to work overtime. Otherwise, Jackson's plan simply involves moving resources from one problem to another.
"All you're doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul," says Loomis. "Quit the bullshit. If you're truly concerned about the crime rates in Cleveland and making it a better place to live, then stop worrying so much about the freakin' overtime, and let's get busy. We want to be policemen. But damn, let's do this already and stop with all this showboating nonsense."
Speaking of headlines, police in Slavic Village's 3rd District have been seeing success by quietly increasing patrols in high-crime areas and doing warrant sweeps to get repeat offenders off the street. Residents in the downtrodden neighborhood are so pleased they even approach district Captain Joe Sadie during undercover operations to shake his hand.
But Mayor Jackson's office doesn't want you to know about it. When Scene tried to write about this rare triumph in Slavic Village, City Hall barred 3rd District officers from speaking to our humble rag.
The problem is not that Jackson and police brass are averse to feel-good stories about our fighting men and women in blue. It's that they plan to close the 3rd District later this year. And you can't have voters knowing that you're about to close one of the most effective districts in the city, now can you?
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