Cast of Characters

Recount, HBO’s recent movie about the 2000 Florida debacle, featured Laura Dern, nailing the role of Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris. We think HBO could set an entertaining sequel here in Cleveland. We haven’t settled on a working title, since the ending isn’t written (Malfeasance? The Cuyahoga Redemption? Oops! ... I Did It Again?). But we’re ready to cast the lead roles.

Former Elections Officials:
why we’re glad they’re gone

Current Elections Officials:
at their best, at their worst

Ken Blackwell
Secretary of State, 1999-2006

May go down in history as Ohio’s worst elections official. His directives were so late, erratic and restrictive, Democrats charged he was working to suppress the vote. Issued a ruling (later rescinded) that registrations should be rejected if they were on paper of the wrong thickness. Meanwhile, served as honorary co-chair of the Ohio Bush-Cheney campaign. The End: Ran for governor in 2006; lost by 24 percentage points. The Part: Eddie Murphy mixing his Nutty Professor persona with Samuel L. Jackson’s Biblical vengeance in Pulp Fiction, or Samuel L. Jackson doing the reverse.
Jennifer Brunner
Secretary of State, 2007

Best Moments: Fired old Cuyahoga County elections board. Clarified key election rules. Released study of voting systems’ security flaws. Worst Moments: Pushed for new voting systems that the state wouldn’t pay for and that would lose votes. Fought with Republicans in Legislature and on election boards. DEFENSE: “I’m coming at this as a former judge and someone who cares deeply about making sure voters have confidence in the election system.” The Part: Strong woman, seems organized and in control, until anxiety leads to hasty decisions — Julianne Moore, combining her turns as FBI agent Clarice Starling in Hannibal and as Boogie Nights’ panicky porn queen, Amber Waves.
Michael Vu
Cuyahoga County Elections Director, 2003-2007

Sounded smart; terrible manager. Ignored complaints about poll chaos in 2004, so the problems got worse in 2006. Didn’t prepare poll workers for electronic voting. Oversaw a botched presidential recount that led to criminal charges against employees. The End: Quit before he was fired in February 2007. The Part: A brilliant computer nerd, oblivious to crisis: perhaps Ken Leung, science team member on Lost and Uncle Junior’s unstable buddy on The Sopranos.
Jane Platten
Cuyahoga County Elections Director, 2007

Best Moments: A better manager than Vu, she’s made lots of little fixes that add up. Had 43 employees taking poll workers’ calls on election days; Vu had as few as four. More open with the public. Worst Moments: Cost of elections still extremely high, straining the entire county budget. Convinced board to buy voting scanners for $13.4 million from ES&S, the vendor for March’s election; competing bid was $3.7 million cheaper. DEFENSE: “Now is not the time to experiment with new systems again. We already went through the horror of a system that failed us.” The Part: Younger woman, actually well-organized and in control, single-minded in the face of anything, including budgets: Gillian Anderson, with the toughness of Agent Scully in The X-Files. We want to believe.
Old Board of Elections
pictured: Bob Bennett, 1998-2007

Ignored complaints that thousands of votes were lost in 2004. Defended workers indicted on charges of taking illegal shortcuts in 2004 recount. Chose the flawed $21 million Diebold touchscreens. The End: Fired by new secretary of state in March 2007. The Parts: Three men and one woman ignoring dire warnings, filibustering in self-defense: Michael Moore, clean-shaven, doing an ironic, campy Bob Bennett?
New Board of Elections
pictured: Sandy McNair, 2007

Best Moments: Fewer partisan fights than old board. More diligent and thorough. Worst Moments: Adopted a vote-scanning system for March that lost votes, and tried to keep it for November. Thwarted; bought the more expensive of two systems. DEFENSE: “I think [turnout] this November is going to be unprecedented,” says McNair. “It was a wiser course to stay with the system we knew would work.” The Parts: Four smart, snappy arguers — prosecutors from Law and Order, especially Sam Waterston as Sandy McNair.

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