The Dangers of S.B. 71 (a summary)

Apr 18, 2023 | Legislation, Ohio | 0 comments

Recently, Senator Gaverone introduced The Enact Data Analysis Transparency Archive (DATA) S.B. 71 (SB71) to the State Senate. SB71 was created through a joint partnership with America First Policy Institute, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and Senator Theresa Gaverone.

There are several legitimate concerns about SB71, but two rise to the top.

    1. It continues to move elections away from the counties and centralizes them with the state.
    2. It claims transparency, but networks and computers are, in function, opaque—we cannot see what is going on and must accept results in blind faith.

The First Concern

Ohio is a “bottom up” state. States that are bottom up are constitutional states which have practical application of representation by and close to the people. Our parties are structured with Central Committee members playing significant roles—which keeps a portion of political power at local levels.

SB71 continues the move of voter rolls away from the Counties to centralize it with the state. This move changes a fundamental process of our election system which Ohio has held for decades. Moving a process to the state and away from the counties—which effectively moves it away from the people—goes against the very concept of “bottom up” government. Doing so with something as critical as our voter rolls is very concerning.

The reason a “bottom up” structure is so critical to a Constitutional Republic is because it keeps the government close to the people, and as such, the people have both responsibility and over site. Moving our election systems away from the counties, and from the people, moves a critical aspect of maintaining our freedoms away from us.

Finally, anytime a system, database, or function is centralized, risk increases. It can take only one breach, mistake, or bad actor to affect the whole. If the Counties maintain their own databases and processes for their voter rolls, Ohio has 88 databases plus the state database which mirrors the Counties (which is the current process). If something goes wrong at the state level, the County databases remain in tact. If something happens to a County—or more than one—there can still be integrity in the other counties, thus preventing the whole state from being compromised.

Decentralization of our voter rolls is an important protection against compromise of many kinds. Allowing the counties to maintain their rolls keeps the government local and bottom up as intended.


The Second Concern

Computer systems are not transparent. We cannot see what happens inside a computer or how it happens. We cannot verify that the computer correctly did what it was told to do. We can only hope that it functions correctly and does what it is supposed to do.

As mentioned above, computer systems are vulnerable in a variety of ways. When a system is compromised, it can be hard—and may be even impossible—to detect, even for a professional. Most voters are not professionals.

The expectation for voters to believe that voting systems are functioning 100% correctly all the time, or that any issues that arise are corrected and have no impact on their vote is a very high ask. It is, in fact, a request for voters to take one’s word for it—it is not transparent. It is blind faith.

SB71 is bad for voters. It’s bad for free and fair elections. It’s bad for freedom and it’s bad for Ohio.

Updated September 10 with clarifying language. This bill has been passed.