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Speros v. Ohio Secretary of State

Court of Claims of Ohio

October 27, 2017

JOHN WILLIAM SPEROS Requester
v.
OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE Respondent

          Sent to S.C. Reporter 11/7/17

          Renata Y. Staff Sarah Pierce Assistant Attorneys General Constitutional Offices Section.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Jeffery W. Clark Special Master.

         {¶1} On March 1, 2017, requester John Speros sent a public records request to respondent Ohio Secretary of State ("SOS") that stated:

a. "For a personal (non-business) research topic, I request voting results in machine-readable format (e.g., Access or single table Excel) for all congressional races since 2001.
b. Those data include: Year; District, Candidate Name, Candidate Political Party Affiliation; Number of Votes Received.
c. If you have available a larger set of data along these lines, I'd be pleased to receive that collection and extract what I need.
d. If you have additional questions or recommendations, please let me know that, too."

(Complaint, Attachments p. 3.) On March 3, 2017, SOS Legislative Liaison Emily Groseclose responded:

e. "Elections results can be found on our website at http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/elections/Research/electResultsMai n.aspx.
f. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact me."

(Id., p. 2.) At the time of this response, the SOS website contained statewide, district, and county results for 2002, and statewide, district, county, and precinct level results for 2004, 2010, 2014, and 2016. It did not contain general election results data for 2008 or 2012 (Bowling Aff., ¶ 11; Pietenpol July 20, 2017 Aff., ¶ 7-8.) Speros replied:

g. "As I recorded in your voice-mail moments ago, while I appreciate your providing a link the Secretary of State election results web page(s), those data do not portray the information that I seek because those data are not portrayed in a readily useable format which enable year-over-year and district-by-district analysis.
h. More specifically, those data are inadequate for various reasons, including these:
. Each election year's data are portrayed in separate files
. Many of those files are rendered in a (HTML) format which cannot be directly imported into a database
. Each of the files employ widely varying formats-below my signature block please find two examples that indicate how radically different the data are portrayed-that impose very high costs to extract and import (and then error check).
i. That is why I am requesting Congressional general election results for the years 2002 to 2016 in a single, comprehensive file the format for which can be easily imported into a flat file database. Technicians will recognize that this format includes a (Excel) spreadsheet, an (Access) database or even a delimited text file.
j. As I mentioned, if you have available a larger set of data along these lines, I'd be pleased to receive that collection and extract what I need. If you have additional questions or recommendations, please let me know that, too."

(Emphasis added.) (Complaint, Attachments p. 1.) On March 10, 2017, Elections Counsel David W. Bowling of the SOS contacted Speros by telephone,

k. "to discuss his concerns regarding the response to his public records request. Mr. Speros stated that he felt someone with an IT background would further understand his request and possess the capability to produce a responsive record. He indicated that he would be following up with a revised public records request to the Secretary of State's Office."

(Bowling Aff., ¶ 7.) Speros denies that the call concluded with his promise to revise the request, but instead relates his understanding,

l. "that Mr. Bowling intended to speak with the SOS' computer technologists to learn more about the SOS' data management systems and those systems' ability to ...

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