Courageous or 'reckless'?
Depending on your knowledge about, comfort level or point of view on touch-screen voting machines, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (not unlike her predecessor Ken Blackwell of Cincinnati) has become a magnet for praise -- as well as scorn -- as the state's top election officer.
The latest example is today's announcement that Brunner has been selected for the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in Boston on May 12.
The Ohio Republican Party quickly responded with its own take on Brunner's award. GOP spokesman John McClelland sent out a news statement titled: "Brunner's Special Brand of Courage: 'Fostering a culture of intimidation regardless of the consequences'" (See full text below.)
Brunner, a Democrat, will get the award along with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen for challenging the reliability of touch-screen voting systems. In December, Brunner recommended that 57 Ohio counties -- including Adams, Butler and Highland -- replace their touch-screen voting machines purchased after the 2004 presidential election with optical scan machines which use paper ballots. Brunner released a study that found touch-screen machines susceptible to hacking, memory card problems and other technical failures. Her critics object to the disruption and cost of replacement -- estimated as high as $64 million -- and questioned the necessity of Brunner’s proposals.
This year's award winners were announced earlier today by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Brunner and Bowen will be presented the award for "political courage" by Caroline Kennedy and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. (You may recall Robert F. Kennedy Jr. authored a 2006 article titled: "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" for Rolling Stone magazine here.)
"As we prepare to cast our ballots for the next President of the United States, our confidence in the integrity and reliability of the voting process has never been more important," Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, said in a news statement. "Secretaries of State Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner have each demonstrated exceptional leadership in working to ensure that voting systems provide a full and accurate count of the vote. Our democracy depends on voter trust. Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner’s efforts to earn that trust have made them true profiles in courage."
The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award™ in 1989.
For more information about the Profile in Courage Award and all the past recipients, visit http://www.jfklibrary.org/
John McClelland's Republican Party statement read: "Jennifer Brunner has indeed shown a willingness to act regardless of the consequences, recklessly promoting a radical agenda and consistently hewing to her own personal version of the truth. It takes courage to pursue a colossal waste of tax dollars for a new voting system based entirely on personal whims and hypothetical evidence. It takes courage to punish your critics and threaten dissenters while presenting yourself as nonpartisan. It takes courage to surround yourself with advisors from the tin foil hat wing of the Democrat Party, yet claim to approach election reform with an open mind."