Ohio Secretary Of State's Office Rebukes Obama Campaign

Ohio's Secretary of State, an office held by a Democrat, has rebuked Sen. Barack Obama's campaign for trying to staff precincts with poll workers who presented insufficient credentials.

Obama's campaign calls this charge "wrong."

In a memo sent late this morning to county election directors by David M. Farrell, Ohio's
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, a letter carried by Obama supporters -- signed by Obama state director Paul Tewes -- is deemed "not legally sufficient on its own to allow someone to gain access to polling places."

Farrell notes that state law requires that polling observers must be "duly appointed" and have been previously issued a certificate.

The letter from Tewes states the bearer 'is hereby authorized to serve as a legal poll monitor on behalf of the Obama campaign."

The alleged infraction seems minor, but the Clinton campaign has seized on the e-mail from the Secretary of State's office as evidence that the Obama campaign is trying to game the system in Ohio.

Lynn Utrecht, chief campaign counsel for Sen. Hillary Clinton, said that she'd recieved reports from the field of Obama poll workers being kicked out of precincts for aggressively challenging voters. Adding it up, she said, "and it's a pattern."

And Tina Flournoy, a Clinton campaign adviser, compared the conduct to that of Republicans in the 2004 election.

"It’s a pretty sad thing that people we now have to worry about are fellow Democrats," she said.

"The Secretary of state is wrong on the facts," said Obama spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer. "We are correctly credentialed and are calling now to correct any misunderstanding tot he contrary."

Here's the Tewes letter.


Farrell's letter is after the jump.

From: Farrell, David
Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 10:01:04 AM
To: BOE Contacts; All Counties
Cc: Field Staff; Elections Attorneys; Elections
Subject: Sen. Obama "Poll Monitor" Letter Info
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Dear Boards of Elections Directors, Deputy Directors, and Members:

Attached is a copy of a letter being presented by Sen. Obama supporters to election officials at polling locations. Our office's legal interpretation is that this letter is not legally sufficient on its own to allow someone to gain access to polling places.

To be allowed access to a polling location an observer must be duly appointed as an official observer and have an official observer certificate issued pursuant to R.C. 3505.21, which in part states: “Observers appointed to a precinct may file their certificates of appointment with the presiding judge of the precinct at the meeting on the evening prior to the election, or with the presiding judge of the precinct on the day of the election.” Someone who wants to observe may present the attached letter in addition to the official observer certificate, but they must have the official observer certificate to legally gain entry.

Please refer to SOS Directive #2008-29 (Rights And Limitations on Election Observers) for more detailed information.

If you have additional questions, please contact a member of the SOS Election Legal Counsel staff at (614) 466-2585.


David M. Farrell
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
and Director of Elections
Office of the Ohio Secretary of State
180 E. Broad Street - 15th Floor