The Democratic nominee in the special election for Ohio's 12th Congressional District has made his efforts to "safeguard" America's election system an integral part of his campaign, despite his record casting doubt on his expertise and commitment on the matter.
Danny O'Connor cites his service on Franklin County's Data Processing Board, where he serves as the county's recorder, as proof that he is a leader capable of finding solutions to pressing problems.
Shortly after announcing his candidacy for Congress in February, O'Connor submitted a letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch, arguing in favor of legislation before the Ohio General Assembly that would create an automatic voter-registration system. In his letter, the candidate urged legislators to take steps to "safeguard" the voting system to ensure elections are "free and fair."
"As Americans, our right to vote is a privilege and a responsibility," O'Connor wrote. "We need to take that responsibility seriously, ensure that our elections are free and fair, and safeguard our voting system."
O'Connor cited his service and responsibilities on the Data Processing Board to show how "seriously" he viewed the issue.
"As Franklin County recorder and a member of the Franklin County Data Processing Board, I take these issues very seriously," he wrote. "There is more we need to do to make our elections more secure."
The processing board, which meets once a month, is responsible for overseeing any fiscal expenses made in support of data and information technology services for Franklin County. It is chaired by the Franklin County auditor and works to ensure county agencies are not misusing taxpayer funds.
It does not have a supervisory capacity over initiatives proposed or undertaken by the county board of elections. Furthermore, the board of elections is only 1 of 40 government agencies the data board has fiscal oversight over and even that is limited to matters surrounding information technology.
Undercutting O'Connor's claims to expertise on the issues is the fact that he's missed nearly 47 percent of the board's meetings since taking office, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. O'Connor's attendance record has improved since announcing his run for Congress. Throughout 2017 the candidate missed 56 percent of the board's meetings, often sending a staffer in his place.
The reasoning for his frequent absences was not denoted on the official meeting minutes obtained, and the O'Connor campaign did not return requests for comment. On at least one occasion, however, it is clear that O'Connor failed to attend because he was speaking to a group of Democratic party activists whose support may prove consequential in his pursuit of a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The candidate's repeated absences have not prevented him from touting his work on the board, especially on the topic of "voter security," while on the campaign trail.
O'Connor again brought up his service on the data board in April, when he discussed allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election during an interview with the Ohio chapter of Indivisible, the D.C.-based progressive group working with activists to resist President Donald Trump's agenda.
"It's important for us to focus on making sure that we have secure elections here at home," O'Connor said. "I'm proud to sit on the data board here in Franklin County … we [just] voted to allocate $110,000 to shore up our election security here at our board of elections."
"I was proud to vote for that," O'Connor added.
When reached for comment, a representative for the Franklin County Board of Elections told the Free Beacon that plans to rewrite the current voter-software system had been in the works for some time. The representative would not comment on the role O'Connor played, if any, in formulating the proposal.
During the Democratic primary, O'Connor, running in a field of five other candidates, used his tenure on the board supporting "election-security" measures as a means to distinguish himself from his competitors.
"When I'm in Congress, I'll fight to make sure that our states, our municipalities have the type of assistance, have the type of support they need from the top level to ensure that our elections are protected," O'Connor said during a primary debate.
"I wanted to talk a little bit about what I have been able to do at the local level for folks here," he said. "In my capacity as a voting member of the data board, we voted to give our board of elections $110,000 worth of new security to protect our electoral process from any type of interference, any type hacking, any type of outside entities from getting in."
O'Connor took the added measure of suggesting that members of the press attend the board's meetings to develop an intimate understanding of voter security, especially if they "love policy" like he does.
"I encourage any members of the press to attend these extremely exciting data board meetings where we talk about this stuff," he said. "If you love policy, and honest to God I love policy, you'd enjoy it because you realize how important this stuff is, and I think that it’s important that we continue that."
The candidate made the invitation despite his own poor attendance record.
The Franklin County Auditor's Office, under which the processing board is housed, would not elaborate on the extent of O'Connor's involvement in the proposal brought before the processing board, apart from noting that he voted in favor of allocating the funds.
Ohio's 12th Congressional District became vacant when the long-serving Republican incumbent resigned to take the helm of the Ohio Business Roundtable, a business advocacy group. The district, while heavily Republican on paper, has been labeled a prime pickup opportunity by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.