I am the leader of two organizations that are dream targets for hackers and others with bad intents. The first is my law firm which has sensitive information on our clients including work histories, medical documents, confidential information and of course the holy grail for identity thieves, information like social security numbers, etc. So we are deadly serious about that in our office.
The other is a board member of the Lucas County Board of Elections. In all of Northwest Ohio, we have been briefed that we are the second most cyber attacked entity in the area. Promedica beats us, but no one else comes close. Now that’s not about voting or counting machines. They are in secure rooms, and can never connect in a two way connection the internet.
But our website has information on elections and campaigns and voters, and we are the subject of routine attacks trying to take down or take control of our website to shake confidence in our elections. And yes, this is sponsored by foreign governments, domestic and international terror groups, etc. So we have extraordinary levels of protections and training on fighting it. So much so I have to handle all emails for the board on a cell phone they provide, set up by our IT team in consultation with Federal and State Agencies, as they correctly believe the board members are the weakest link.
I spend a lot of time getting trained on this. This week includes National Computer Security Day, and I thought what better time to tell you about that day and talk about some common sense things you can do to keep your information and devices safe. Now, I’m not an IT expert. In fact I rely on really good ones at both jobs. But first let me tell you about why this National Day was created and then I’ll share some basic tips.
In November 1988, researchers at Cornell University spotted an unknown virus affecting their computer system. Within four hours of discovery, the virus affected several other university systems and it was known as the 'Morris worm’. Within two weeks, National Computer Infection Action Team (NCAT) was created by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). BTW, DARPA kind of created the internet. The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) was also created. And so American cyber security efforts took their first big leaps. In 2002, it was decided that National Computer Security Day would be celebrated at the end of November, as an excuse for people to talk more about computer security.
So, how do the organizations I am a part of protect themselves against cyber threats. Well, first, you want to get a great partner. As a small business we lean on our IT vendor GUT Consulting. They are in Maumee and keep our technology running smooth and our devices and data safe. Their website, www.gutconsulting.com has a blog with great tips, and if you run a business or help at a non-profit, call them and hire them. I sleep much better at night with them providing our security and backups.
Now, what can you do beyond that to keep your information safe, well one of the biggest things is update all of your software. You know those annoying software updates that pop up on your screen? Well, they're actually your knights in shining armor! Keeping your operating system, apps, and antivirus software up to date is crucial. Updates often contain vital security patches that fix vulnerabilities, so don't ignore them. Embrace the updates and let them keep your digital fortress secure.
Next, take a look at your passwords I get it, remembering passwords is a pain. But using simple or common passwords is like leaving your front door wide open. Opt for strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. Mix it up with a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. And remember, never reuse passwords across different platforms. Use a password manager if you need help keeping track of them all. It’s the only way I can keep up.
Now, I am not a huge fan of this one, but it’s very much going to be a part of our future, two factor authentication. It requires a second confirmation you are you to let you into secure sites and files. It can be having to respond with a number that is sent to you by email or text. It's like having a secret handshake that only you and your trusted devices know. I hate it when even food delivery sites do it
Be Mindful of Public Wi-Fi. Ah, free Wi-Fi! It's tempting to connect to that open network at your favorite coffee shop or airport, but beware. Public Wi-Fi can be a haven for hackers. Avoid accessing sensitive information or making financial transactions while connected to public networks. If you must use them, consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for an added layer of security. I have this on my laptop, my cell phone and my ipad. Now you don’t necessarily have to use it for everything, but consider it if you’re going to be doing anything with information some one would want to have.
And last, but defiantly not least is to learn about and avoid Phishing. No, we’re not talking about being a fan of a band called Phish. Phishing is like a digital fishing expedition, where cyber criminals try to trick you into revealing sensitive information. Be skeptical of suspicious emails, texts, or messages asking for personal details or login credentials. Keep an eye out for misspellings, grammatical errors, or odd requests. Beware of any email that claims that really bad things will happen if you don’t act quickly. E.g. if you don’t click on this link and log in, the bad guys will have a $5,000 purchase go through on your Amazon account. Or you’ll be in trouble with the IRS, you won’t get paid., etc.
When in doubt, don't click that link or download that attachment. Go on your own to the website in question. The cyber criminals will go to amazing extremes. They have set up websites that look and act like the real ones. Except when you try to log in to stop that rip off, what you’ve really done is give them the password and log in info the needed. DO NOT open attachments unless you confirm with the sender, who is someone you deal with, that this is something they sent. Stay smart, not phished!
National Computer Security Day reminds us to take charge of our online safety. By following these easy best practices, you'll be well-equipped to protect your information and devices from cyber threats. So, stay updated, create strong passwords, enable 2FA, watch out for phishing attempts, and be cautious on public Wi-Fi. With these tips in your arsenal, you're ready to surf the web like a pro, confidently and securely. Happy National Computer Security Day!
What Happens After Election Day aka Why Faking the Moon Landing would have been easier than the “Big Steal”.
For the last 19 years I have been allowed to go behind the curtain of what we do in this country and state to pull together elections. For 14 years I was appointed by my political party as a Board of Elections Observer (or back when we started it was called Challenger) in many types of elections in about 14 Ohio Counties, mostly my own, Lucas for the Ohio Democratic Party and various county parties. And for the last 5 years I have been one of the four members of the Board of Elections.
I can tell you have seen the whole process now and gone through every training our board offers it’s employees and all of the ones the Ohio Secretary of State’s office and the bipartisan Ohio Association of Elections officials have to offer. So I now know more than most humans about how our elections work in Ohio.
And I can tell you that even by the end of next week, December 1, 2023, we won’t be done with all we do to keep elections accurate and secure for the November 7, 2023 General Election and we are already working on the March 19, 2024 Primary Election.
Like many, I used to think that the numbers you see on Election Night were the official count. They are not. There are literally weeks of checks and cross checks that go into our elections after election night. Since a certain presidential candidate and his supporters don’t want to believe he didn’t get the most votes in either General Election he was in, they have created this idea of how the election was stolen from him. Let me tell you that it truly would have been easier in 1969 to 1972 to have faked the moon landings of the Apollo program. Then again, some of the folks who buy the “Big Steal” also believe that we could create special effects decades before that was possible.
So, let me tell you about the procedures on Election Night and after to get us to the final answer and prevent any kind of major games being played. First, understand in Ohio, and in my county, every ballot is a paper ballot. Whether you are voting by absentee ballot, or a fill in the ovals paper ballot when you vote in person, a provisional ballot, or cast your vote on a touch screen, you are voting on paper.
Our touchscreen voting machines are ballot marking devices. Think of them as the world’s most expensive and tested Number Two Pencil’s. They are given a bar code that tells the machine what ballot to give you. BTW, there is no one ballot in an election, save the Special Election of August of 2023. Because of the various lines for different council, state house, state senate, US Congressional, Library, Fire, School, etc district in our county, we have to create dozens to about 1,300 different ballots for those who vote. You then vote and it records each of those votes in writing. You then take the ballot to a scanner where it gets scanned and stored.
Each piece of equipment was checked by a team of at least one Democrat and one Republican and done in a public forum. Every time we decide if a voter’s registration should be done, or a ballot is issued, it’s done with bipartisan teams. Every time we move a ballot, whether the original electronic copy or the paper original, it’s done with bipartisan teams and tamper resistant evidence seals and at some points also delivered under the watchful eye of a bipartisan team and law enforcement. And all along the way, they those seals and evidence protocols are checked and rechecked by a bipartisan team. If we have ballots or counting equipment in a room at our office, you can not get in there without a Democrat and a Republican swiping an electronic key. And we don’t leave ballots lying around without a bipartisan team watching. This last Election Night, our Deputy Director, a good guy and yes a Republican, had to go up a floor and walk almost the length of a very large building to get me. They needed me to come down to the count room, so that at least one Democrat was in with the people doing the counting. Normally our Democratic IT worker would be in there helping, but his wife went into labor that morning. And our Director, a Democrat, needed to step out and do something but couldn’t until I relieved her. I can tell you would trust our GOP employees in that room with my life, but we don’t with a ballot.
Now, there are tales of copied ballots and foreign powers dropping them off on the shores of our country. Let me tell you I can not tell you, nor have I ever been briefed, as to all of the safeguards on the our ballots, but they are standard ones. The paper is unique, so is the ink. There are specific marks we need to identify the ballot. And there are usually multiple sets. One to identify it not only as our ballot from my county, but pretty close to being able to tell it’s your ballot. There are also ones to feed it through our count machines. They have to align perfectly, keep reading for what happens. And a bipartisan team checks them on the way out and in to make sure they’re legit.
Now, not anyone can print a ballot. We have specific companies we can work with. We have our own in house shop certified to do that too, but because of sheer numbers, we sometimes get help with part of the process. Due to a situation too complicated for this post, on one race, in one village, we had to have a special paper ballot. We hired one of those certified printers to help us get that one created. They made a tiny printing error, measured somewhere between 1/32nd to 1/64th of inch. And we had to remake all of those ballots.
When I say remake, bipartisan teams sit down. The one has a new copy of the ballot, the other the original. Both get a serial number that has to match, but has another color so we know which is the original with issues and which is the remake. And we cross check each other and each ballot. So, when you think about that idea of supposedly printed ballots to stuff in ballot boxes, think of this issue and how they would need to get the printing done perfectly, never mind all of the other safeguards.
Now what we get you on Election Night is called the unofficial tally. Over the next several days other ballots will come in that may or may not count. For instance, any absentee ballot that was post marked the day before the election and gets to us in the timeframe, will so long as all of the security items jibe count. But again on each one, a Democrat and Republican have to agree or send it to us the board. The Board is 2 of each party, and unless we can get to a 3-1 or 4-0 vote, they’re not getting counted.
Also, there are some people who have an issue on Election Day. They requested an absentee ballot, but say they didn’t get it. They forgot to bring the required ID, etc. So, what we do is let them vote a provisional ballot. This is a special paper ballot. It gets put into a security envelope. If you fix the issue you had, e.g. you bring in the ID to us afterwards, then a bipartisan team checks to make sure all of the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed. There some mistakes we as the board can forgive, e.g. you put down your date of birth as the correct month and day, but made the year the date of the election. Those we can forgive. But there are ones we can’t. But again, we need a bipartisan vote of the board to count those. And we don’t get to see how you voted before we decide if those will count or not.
The staff will then open those in bipartisan teams and deal with any issues, e.g. people have some really different ways of marking a ballot. So sometimes they have to bring them to us, and we have to again vote 3-1 or 4-0 to figure out your intent. And then they remake those ballots too to make them scan properly.
At that point, we get the final, official results. That is unless any race is within 0.01% in which case, we do a recount. Don’t think your vote matters. We have, in my five years as a board member, not once but twice had to flip a coin. We had an even tie. One race was a district that crosses three counties. But again, they were tied. And we have to declare a winner before we do a recount. So, we actually flipped a coin to decide the winner. And then do the recount. I am happy to say we managed to get a coin thanks to our Deputy Director, from the year our county was founded, but we really do toss a coin. So, last time, with the Toledo Blade filming it, I flipped it after one of my Republican colleagues decided which one was heads and which tails. I can tell you the recount on both of these races was yet again a tie, in which case the coin flip is what decided the elected official. Now a recount is a manual hand count and recheck of every ballot in select polling places with not one but two bipartisan teams double checking their work. It’s rare it changes an outcome, but it does sway a few votes here and there.
But if you think we’re done, then, if not a single race is tight enough for a recount, or we did the recount, you would be wrong. You see we do this thing called a risk limiting audit. If you want to see a dorky proceeding, come to our certification meeting of an election, they are public. We will receive marching orders from our boss, the Ohio Secretary of State as to what we have to do. Usually we get told one or two statewide races and a number of contested local races, and we pick the later, by drawing names of offices out of a box or hat. Again, alternating Democrat and Republican. We then put every polling place in the county, with what precincts are on it, and how many votes. And we once again randomly draw polling places until we get to 5% or more of the total vote. We draw one more polling place as a backup.
And then bipartisan teams do a recount of those races in those polling places. And we don’t accept an accuracy rate of less than 99.99%. And we do that every time.
So, again, when you hear about any claim of an election being stolen, imagine convincing Democrats and Republicans to work together, against the interests of one of their candidates, and get past those kind of safeguards (and those aren’t even close to all of them) and stealing or adding millions of votes around the country. It would have been easier to fake the Moon Landings and keep that secret for 50 years. BTW, in case you buy that conspiracy theory, three of the Apollo Moon Landings left laser reflector mirrors on the Moon. Got a high powered laser and the instruments to measure a small amount of light bouncing back? You too can hit one and have your signal bounced back. They have done it around the world many times, and even did it on the Big Bang Theory TV Show. To quote an old joke, we were going to fake them, but we hired Stanley Kurbick to direct the show, and he wanted it to be so accurate, it was cheaper to actually do it.
So, please, vote, and do not buy the rants of people who lost an election. The Democracy you save will be your own.
Thirty years ago, on November 8, 1993, my journey to become a lawyer ended, and my practice began. I was sworn in on that day in Columbus in the Ohio Theater. You can get sworn in at the ceremony in Columbus, or in front of another judge. I had the honor of Justice Paul Pfeifer being the one to swear me in. He had just been sworn as a Justice the year before. He served on the court 23 of my 30 years of practice and was generally one of the nicest and fairest judges on there. And in case you think that is because he was my party or sided with me always, wrong on both counts. I got to be one of the attorneys on an appeal that was decided just a month or so later, and well, it didn’t go our way.
In 1986 I had started in college as a business major, but I decided not to be corporate suit and switched to political science. Thinking I would be like one of the characters on the West Wing, a professional political operative. In fact I have certification in running political campaigns, elected officials offices and running a Political Action Committee (PAC). And I did later in life become one too. But at the time of my undergrad training I went through internships at a Congressional Office, at a Mayoral Office, and for a Congressional Campaign. What I noticed was if these people had spouses they were ex spouses. If they had kids, the kids didn’t want them in their lives. I decided having a wife and kids who actually wanted me around was more important, so law school it was.
If you don’t know in most states you have to get an undergraduate degree, a bachelors and then a Juris Doctorate (JD) to practice. A few states allow you to take the bar exam without the JD so long as you work as a paralegal or legal assistant in a law firm for a sufficient time. For me, 7 years of college. Thanks to a scholarship I ONLY had to ring up $55,000 in student loan debt, adjusting for inflation that’s $117,000 today. BTW, the cost of just that JD today from the same school is about $165,000.
I remember being at conference with a bunch of young lawyers, law students and older lawyers the year after I graduated. Our speaker at the time, then a national expert on the practice of law as a business, now my friend, had all of the students and recent grads stand and he asked us to stay standing until he got to the level of student loan debt we owed. When he got into the $100,000's back then, he said to the older attorneys, no they’re not money hungry, there are in debt.
That conference was the biennial Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) Law Fraternity International Convention. PAD is the largest legal organization in the world. It has members in the United States and it’s territories, Canada, and Mexico. By sheer coincidence the day of the founding of PAD. PAD was founded to help a group of potential lawyers who were, after reaching the end of the process being denied a chance to take the test and practice, due to a new requirement. They got a waiver for those already in the process. The group stayed together to help law students and lawyers be better. So If you like the lawyer I became, you can thank them in part.
Thanks to the training of law school, PAD, and my mentors and family, I’ve had an amazing ride so far. I had the chance to appear before the Ohio Supreme Court and a second chair a jury in my first week. I got to take my first workers’ compensation hearings. In my first few years, I got to practice in a variety of different areas of law including trying criminal and traffic cases both adult and juvenile, domestic relations, personal injury, social security disability, zoning and real estate, bankruptcy and probate. And who knew probate would be the one with the most harrowing story, I’ll tell it some other time, but there are guns drawn in it.
I’ve had the chance to appear before planning commissions, municipal courts, common pleas court, district courts of appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court and the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland and Toledo, and the Social Security Office of Hearings and Appeals and the Appeals Counsel.
I was one of the first batch of Ohio State Bar Associations first crop of specialists, in my Ohio Workers’ Compensation law. And thanks to that, appear before dozens of common pleas courts hundreds of times, four district courts of appeals on dozens of occasions, the Ohio Supreme Court 12 times the actual Industrial Commissioners 17 times and District and Staff Hearing Officers over 19,000 times and climbing.
And I had the opportunity to help out teens of thousands of people, from pro bono efforts, thousands and thousands of working people, and even two of our last three presidents. Ok, the last one I was appointed by the party to be one of their lead observers in multiple counties in multiple elections.
And on that professional political operative thing, well I’ve gotten to stand on the floor of a state party convention as a delegate, and pick the Electoral College Elector from my congressional district. To stand on the floor of the Democratic National Convention to scream an enthusiastic second (along with a few thousand other delegates) as we made a belief of my wife and mine a plank in the party’s platform and also to be there, at the courthouse to make sure that belief came to be reality in my county, and even to meet one of the people who made that a reality. And had the honor to serve as a member of my city’s city council, as chair of my county party’s Executive Committee, to serve on the State Party Executive Committee, and on our county board of elections.
And in the legal field, I have had the honor of serving as the Ohio Captain for the Work Injury Law and Advocacy Group, a national organization for attorneys like myself who represent workers in their workers’ compensation claims. I have had the chance to serve as the Workers’ Compensation Section Chair of the now Ohio Association for Justice (OAJ) and on the Board and Executive Committees and as a PAC Board Member. I’ve had the chance to serve as the Workers’ Compensation Committee Vice Chair and Chair of the Toledo Bar Association. And I currently serve on the Ohio State Bar Association’s Workers’ Compensation Governing Council and Committee.
Now, I wouldn’t be here without the help and encouragement of my Mother, who recently left us after 80 years of life. She encouraged me to look at law, to apply myself, to care about others and gave me the financial backing to get through law school, and when the time was right, the money to start my own law firm.
I also want to thank my wife and kids who had my back, put up with my stress, and encouraged me in all of that. Also an amazing team of secretaries, paralegals, law clerks, firm administrators, and fellow attorneys who helped me be a better attorney along the way. And to the teens of thousands of you who have trusted me to help you out over the years.
Finally, I want to give two special thank yous, beyond my wife, mom and kids. First, and to all the teachers out there, this is why you do what you do, my 7th Grade Teacher, Mr. O’Shea. He took me aside (and it was a Catholic school before anyone panics) and said that I had been given a gift from God, the ability to talk to and relate to people from all walks of life, and that was something I needed to make full use of. I think I did Mr. O’Shea.
And the second to Uncle (my Dad’s Brother) and Aunt, who gave me a graduation card in college, that I framed and sits in my office. It’s a poem Success by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and it’s a definition of what it means to have succeeded, and my favorite line is at the end “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeed”.
As I look around my office at little tokens of thanks that my clients have gotten me, and little symbols of battles won & a few lost, I’ve been told I have. Thank you all for making that possible. Now there is no way I’m going to be around and capable for another 30 years, but I’ll keep up the fight as long as I can help out people who need a voice.
So it’s almost here, one of our favorite days around the office, Election Day. Mind you, Kurt will be a bit tired, and stressed, but we still love the excitement and energy of it.
For years our team has worked to make sure everyone who should get to vote gets to vote by working with Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice and their rides to the polls operation 419-VOTE NOW. And helping found and working with the Democratic Promote the Vote/Voter Protection Team. And now we send the boss off to do his board of elections job.
Some people call these Odd Year Elections Off Year Elections. They act as if there aren’t many important issues or candidates as we’re not voting on President, Congress, Governor, the General Assembly, etc. But there are actually more candidates and issues on the ballot save the Presidential primary and party reorganization primaries next year.
In fact, for our readers from Lucas County we’re enclosing the list of all candidates and issues that will appear on the ballot And it’s extensive. We have two statewide issues to vote on Issue One protects a woman’s right to choose would severely restrict limits on abortion. State Issue Two would allow Ohio to join the growing list of states where the recreational use of marijuana would be legal in many circumstances.
Plus there are multiple levies and other questions to vote on. Along with again most cities and villages, mayoral races, city council races, judicial races, and school board positions. These are the people whose day to day decisions effect us the most. So, if you haven’t yet, you should learn about what you’ll be voting on.
If you are a Lucas County voter, go the voter services page of the Lucas County Board of Elections website There you confirm you are registered to vote, where your polling place is (they have to move sometimes) and what candidates and issues will appear on your ballot. In fact you can download a pdf of what your ballot will look like when you go to vote. It really is a great feature.
Now, when you’ve got your mind made up, make your plan to vote. There are three ways you can vote in Ohio, but that last one ends soon. That first one is to request a vote by mail absentee ballot. You don’t have to a reason to vote absentee in our state, but the deadline is almost past on getting a request in. And you can return them by driving them down to your county’s drop box before the end of Election Day. You can mail them, but you a postmark the day before or earlier and they need to arrive no later than a few days post Election Day.
Second way you can vote early in person, although we call those absentee ballots in the technical speak of election administration early absentee, at your county’s Early Vote Center (EVC). All of Ohio’s 88 counties have one. Lucas County’s is located at 3737 W. Sylvania Avenue, not far from Franklin Park Mall. The Entrance is in the back of the building at Entrance C. With this post you find our schedule for early voting in Lucas County but that is the same as all of the other counties.
And the third way is for you to go to your polling place to vote. We are also including a list of what ID you can use to make sure your vote counts. And if you are registered to vote, don’t ever leave without voting a provisional ballot, unless you already voted in this election. The system and the people who run it are far from perfect and mistakes get made. But if you should have your vote count, and vote provisionally, so long as you comply with the law, and fix the issues we say you have, those votes do count to the official tally or outcome.
And for those who don’t know, those numbers we give you are the unofficial tallies. Meaning that they may not be the same when all of the dust settles. The Board of Elections can have a late mail absentee ballot count if it was mailed in time and arrives in time. We can count the provisional ballots that are corrected. So, please be patient. The Board of Elections is staffed by incredible people and their goal, Democrat & Republican alike is to run fair, secure, accurate elections.
Now, if you haven’t already, get out there and vote. The Democracy you save, will be your own.