Friday, May 17, 2013

Kathie Bracy to the Ohio Retirement Study Council: Please investigate this election

May 17, 2013
From: Kathie Bracy
Sent: 5/17/2013 7:32:59 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: 2013 STRS board election
To the members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council:
Please consider investigating the recent election for two retired board seats at STRS Ohio. Retirees feel this election was highly flawed due to ballot language which we are convinced was deliberately deceptive. 
Thousands of retirees intended to vote for one candidate, Dr. Dennis Leone, and no one else, as we felt this was the best chance of his being elected. But the ballot language was changed from the 2009 election ballot in such a way as to trick possibly thousands into voting for two candidates instead of one, being worded in such a way as to make many voters believe their vote would not count unless they voted for two candidates. (Dr. Leone lost by only 778 votes.) Voting for a second candidate along with Dr. Leone heavily favored the two incumbents and worked AGAINST him. Concerns about the ballot language began arising as soon as retirees started receiving their ballots. During the election there were people calling other retirees more closely involved with the election, asking whom they should vote for as a second candidate, because they thought it was a requirement in order for their ballot to be valid. After the election, realizing they'd made a big mistake by voting for two when they had originally intended to vote for one (they were TRICKED into voting for two), people were calling Dr. Leone and apologizing for what they had done. The clever manipulation of this election was NO ACCIDENT.
(1) On the paper ballot it says "Select two candidates". It should have said "UP TO two candidates" or "NO MORE THAN two candidates", as the 2009 ballot indicated. Teachers spend their entire careers teaching children to follow directions, so of course they think they should follow directions, too. The authors of the ballot language were well aware of this and took unfair advantage of retired teachers' honest efforts to do the right thing. FOUL!!!
(2) Wording on the online ballot: "Select two candidates", not "UP TO two candidates" or "NO MORE THAN two candidates". FOUL!!!
(3) Another trick used with the online ballot: If you dared to vote for only one candidate, a second screen was thrown in your face as soon as you hit the Submit button, enticing you to vote for a second candidate ("You may vote for UP TO TWO CANDIDATES") -- yes, telling the voter AFTER HE/SHE TRIES TO VOTE FOR ONE, making many believe they'd better vote for a second candidate or their vote might not count. FOUL!!! If it was OK to give online voters a chance to vote again, why wasn't this done for the mail-in ballot voters or the telephone voters? Why wasn't a second ballot mailed to them when their first one was received with only one vote? When you go into the election booth to vote for president or whatever, you NEVER get a second chance. HIGHLY IRREGULAR!!!
(4) A newsletter from STRS (March 2013, Vol. 39, No. 2) was enclosed with each ballot that was mailed to retirees. It gave a profile on each of the four candidates. At the top was a letter from Executive Director Mike Nehf in which he specifically says " for two candidates..." ("Then vote for two candidates using the enclosed mail ballot or by phone or the Internet.") Right from the top!! FOUL!!!!
As you no doubt are aware, the two incumbent board members who won re-election, James McGreevy and Robert Stein, received heavy backing from OEA; many retirees estimate at least $100,000 or more, using robocalls and personal phone calls to retirees all over the state, in addition to glossy, expensive looking post cards mailings. This needs to be changed. There needs to be some way of leveling the playing field for the candidates running for the STRS board. The other two candidates, Dennis Leone and Nadine McIlwain, had only out-of-pocket funds at their disposal, no deep-pocket organizations to provide funding for them. Something is very wrong with this picture and needs to be fixed. Only you can fix it.
Please investigate the 2013 STRS board election. To say it was an unfairly administered election is a gross understatement.
Thank you.
Katherine B. Bracy
STRS retiree
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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