Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Thursday, November 10
Voting Problems in (Yup, You Guessed It) ...
The AP has this report on some of the issues that emerged in Ohio's election on Tuesday, mostly surrounding the slowness of the count. It appears that the transition to new voting technology is largely responsible -- 44 of Ohio's 88 counties were reportedly using new optical-scan or touchscreen voting equipment. Per Ohio law, the new touchscreens must generate a contemporaneous paper record (aka, "voter verified paper audit trail" or "VVPAT"). Some of the problems have to do with the width of paper used for absentees, which evidently created difficulties in feeding the ballots into counters.

Lucas County (Toledo area), which is using Diebold's TSx with the VVPAT, was the last to report its results, at around 9 am. State officials plan an investigation, according to this Toledo Blade story. Montgomery County (Dayton area) didn't report its results until 7 am. There were also problems in Sandusky County, which uses an optical scan system. Optical-scan readers refused to accept some of the ballots, forcing a manual count. Clermont County also had problems with its optical-scan system, according to this Cincinnati Enquirer story. Ballots jammed when fed into optical-scanners and, although there were only around 42,000 ballots, the count wasn't finished until 7:44 am (second-last in the state).

Meanwhile, evidently speaking from some alternative universe, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell proclaimed that it was a "great day for Ohio voters," with his office "overwhelmed with positive reports." The Secretary of State's office does have this nifty interactive map of which type of system is being used in each county.

While I can't agree with Blackwell's characterization based on the reports thus far, it's far too early to characterize Ohio's semi-transition to new technology a failure. There are worse things that can go wrong than having counts come in late -- foremost among them, having them come in inaccurately, or losing a lot of votes as is always the case with the bad old punch card. As I'm quoted as saying in the AP report, any transition to new voting technology will involve some glitches. Instead of rushing to pronounce the election either a "great day" or a "disaster," what we need is a careful analysis of what went wrong, what went right, and what improvements can be made.

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