More Elections Board Misadventures

Last month, the bosses at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections allowed three female employees to take the fall for the board's decades of incompetence ["Guilt by Association," January 31]. Ballots manager Kathy Dreamer, along with two other women, faced seven criminal charges, accused of rigging the 2004 presidential recount. It didn't matter that they were simply following orders from higher-ups. Dreamer hired lawyer Roger Synenberg to represent her. After all, Synenberg knew the faulty workings of the board all too well. In 1992, Synenberg, who served as the board's Republican chairman, was also accused of rigging the vote. "There was never any rigging back then at all," Synenberg says. "In some respects, it wasn't much different from what these ladies did." On the night of the 1992 primary election, ballots from a Glenville precinct went missing. By 1 a.m., they were still nowhere to be found and board member Kenneth Fisher was looking awfully tired. In order to let Fisher go home, Synenberg ordered the board to run a header card through the computer, which would trick the machine into thinking that it had counted all the ballots. A few days later, the Glenville ballots were found lying in a desk drawer. People cried conspiracy. "It was seized by The Plain Dealer as a reason for massive change at the board," Synenberg says. "It just snow balled and grew into an avalanche." Bob Taft, then the Secretary of State, ordered an investigation. Taft said he found no criminal intent in Synenberg's decision. He simply ordered the board to streamline its procedures. "All it led to was a number of internal changes in policies at the board, that was it," Synenberg says. But it appears that the board didn't improve their policies well enough. On January 24, a jury found Dreamer guilty of negligence and failing to uphold the law. She now faces up to 18 months in prison, simply for following procedures the board has used for the past two decades. Synenberg has filed a motion for a new trial. "Everyone tries hard to make the elections run smoothly," he says. "There is never any criminal intent, especially not with [Dreamer]. There has never been a perfect election, and there never will be." — Denise Grollmus
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