Election Law @ Moritz

2006 Election Overview

2006 Elections Overview

Overview of Ohio Voting Process in November, 2006

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Introduction

Generally, the November, 2006, Ohio elections went smoothly.  The Plain Dealer reported that “many people encountered lines of 25 to 60 minutes,” but were nevertheless able to have their votes count.  Election Day generally goes smoothly, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 8, 2006See also Despite dire predictions, sporadic hiccups, voting smooth, Cincinnati Post, November 8, 2006; For the most part, electronic voting system goes better than expected, Dayton Daily News, November 8, 2006

Notable features of the election were:

  • No-fault absentee voting resulted in many more absentee ballots being cast.
  • The voter ID requirements and the litigation surrounding them caused significant confusion.
  • Cuyahoga remained the most troubled of Ohio’s major election jurisdictions, although it avoided the severity of the problems experienced in May.

No fault absentee voting

The November election was Ohio’s first for no-fault absentee voting.  No fault absentee voting caused campaigns to start advertising earlier to match the greater number of voters casting their ballots early.  Absentee ballots mean more campaign ads, calls, canvassers at your door, Akron Beacon Journal, October 8, 2006.

The influx of absentee votes threatened to delay counting of those ballots in Cuyahoga County and elsewhere.  Rules OK’d for scanning absentee votes, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 6, 2006.  Cuyahoga County rented thirty optical scan machines to help handle the ballots, but officials nevertheless determined they did not have enough equipment to count them in a timely way.  Elections board to rent 30 extra vote scanners, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 3, 2006.  For that reason, the county secured a court order to begin counting them early.  Judge:  All 88 Counties Can Scan Absentee Ballots Early, Cincinnati Post, November 4, 2006.  After that, preliminary tests of the scanners revealed technological problems, but officials were able to fix these in time for scanning.  Another glitch for Cuyahoga election, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 4, 2006.

Technology problems

Ohio experienced scattered problems with voting technology, although these problems were not as bad as those experienced in the May primary. 

In Cuyahoga County, voting machines in eight polling places broke down, forcing voters to cast paper ballots.  Cuyahoga vote tally will be delayed, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 2006.  The Plain Dealer reported that these ballots would be counted together with absentee and provisional ballots at a later date.  A consultant estimated the number of paper ballots cast as fewer than 1,000.

Besides those problems, the director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections stated that the most commonly reported issues were problems with VVPAT printers and problems with the “legs” that support voting machines.  Cuyahoga vote tally will be delayed, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 2006.

Athens County also reported problems, including delays in scanning absentee votes due to technical difficulties.  Why did so much go wrong on Election Day in Athens County, The Athens News, November 13, 2006.

Franklin County experienced problems in thirty-five precincts where machines malfunctioned or where poll workers failed to follow the proper procedures for shutting down voting machines and downloading results onto memory cartridges.  Squire cites errors at polling places, asks for recount in judicial race, Columbus Dispatch, December 1, 2006.  Also in Franklin County, vote totals in one precinct were doubled for every candidate and issue on the ballot.  Board making sense of 40,000 confused votes, Columbus Dispatch, November 24, 2006.  Officials caught the error and corrected it.

Stark County also experienced various voting machine difficulties, including touch screen voting machines that failed to recognize the voter’s touch without repeated attempts.  Lines and problems reported at scattered voting places, Canton Repository, November 7, 2006.  Counting of absentee ballots in Stark County was also delayed due to lack of sufficient scanning machines.  Thousands of votes still uncounted, Akron Beacon Journal, November 9, 2006.

Other relevant stories

  • Trumbull County elections board notifies voters of machine glitch, Vindy.com, November 4, 2006.
  • Ohio’s 1st electronic general election had only a few scattered glitches, Toledo Blade, November 8, 2006.

Technology advancements

In Cuyahoga County, officials implemented an extensive monitoring system to notify them of polling place glitches.  Election board to use computers to watch polls, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 1, 2006.  The system shows officials a green light when voting is going well, a yellow light when voters are forced to vote paper ballots, and a red light when voting has ceased due to problems.

Ballot supply problems

In Summit County, distribution of absentee ballots was delayed beyond the legal deadline when officials could not agree on the wording of a proposed county charter amendment.  Summit absentee ballots delayed, Akron Beacon-Journal, October 20, 2006.  After that conflict was resolved, further delays came when the ballots were printed poorly, making them hard to read.  The Deputy Director of the Summit County Board of Elections indicated that over 22,000 outstanding requests were unfulfilled as of October 20th.

In Ottawa County, polling places ran out of ballots and officials scrambled to print new ones and get them to precincts to minimize delays.  Ottawa County:  Results delayed as several areas run out of ballots, Toledo Blade, November 8, 2006.

Long lines

U.S. District Judge Aaron Polster ordered that sixteen Cleveland precincts stay open until 9 p.m. due to late openings and long lines at polling places.  Federal appeals court puts late votes on hold, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 2006.  On appeal, the Sixth Circuit ordered that while voters who appeared after the close of polls should be allowed to vote, they should only be allowed to cast provisional ballots.  Four of the precincts opened late; the other twelve had long lines.  Results on hold statewide; some polls to stay open, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 2006.  Including the four precincts subject to dispute, a total of forty-three of the county’s 573 polling places either failed to open on time or could not get their voting machines to work on time.  Cuyahoga encounters voting problems, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 2006.

Miami County also suffered from long lines caused by lack of sufficient voting machines, delays caused by pollworkers checking identification, and voters waiting until they arrived at the poll booths to familiarize themselves with ballot issues.  Election board airs concerns during review of process, Dayton Daily News, December 7, 2006.  Warren County experienced some long lines in two precincts in the town of Franklin.  Except for some long lines, Warren County vote smooth, Dayton Daily News, November 16, 2006.

Voter ID confusion

Ohio’s November 7, 2006, election was the first to apply the new voter ID requirements enacted in HB3.  After litigation in NEOCH v. Blackwell resulted in a consent order clarifying how those requirements should be applied, some precincts still experienced confusion. 

A representative of the Montgomery County Voter Protection Coalition, which ran a hotline for voters to report election problems, said that about a third of calls his organization received concerned complaints of poll workers requiring current address on driver’s licenses and state ID’s in violation of the NEOCH consent order.  Despite delays, touch screens win good reviews, Dayton Daily News, November 8, 2006.  Athens County reported the same problem.  Vote-counting machine goes on blink, causes big delay, Athens News, November 9, 2006.

Military voters were an issue of particular concern because, even after the consent order, military ID’s needed current addresses to permit regular voting.  Military ID may pose hurdle at voting booth, Dayton Daily News, October 31, 2006.  Military ID’s do not contain address information.

Database problems

A properly registered eighteen-year-old voter was allowed to vote only after arguing with election workers for over an hour.  Teen nearly loses first chance to vote, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 2006.  Initially, the election workers insisted the boy was not registered to vote.  Eventually, they discovered a clerical error had “matched the teen’s first name with the wrong last name in the board’s database,” and fixed the error.

Bad faith activity

Athens County reported fraudulent calls to voters informing them that their precincts had changed.  More Ohio Election Day Problems, Cleveland Leader, November 11, 2006.

Provisional ballot confusion

The Plain Dealer reported that, when voting machine failures forced voters to cast paper ballots, some affected precincts were requiring voters to cast provisional rather than paper ballots even where the voters would otherwise be able to vote on a machine.  Cuyahoga encounters voting problems, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 7, 2006.

Parties in NEOCH v. Blackwell reached an agreement over how to count provisional ballots, an area that previously some had claimed needed clarification.  Agreement reached on counting ballots, Cincinnati Post, November 16, 2006.

The Summit County Board of Elections could not resolve multiple tie votes considering whether to count 349 provisional ballots.  Summit election count not over, Akron Beacon Journal, November 18, 2006.  The Akron Beacon Journal reported that the ballots “appear” to have been cast because the voters failed to provide proper identification.  In the situation of a tie vote, the Secretary of State breaks the tie.

Security problems

An estimated 12,000 voters in Cuyahoga County cast votes without first fulfilling requirements that they sign the pollbook and show identification.  Thousands voted illegally, Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 5, 2006.  This problem reportedly occurred in 533 of Cuyahoga’s 570 voting precincts.  Officials believe a combination of long lines and insufficient training led to the security breach.  Because ballots are cast anonymously, officials say there is no way to identify the ballots that were cast illegally.  Officials also believe that some voters who signed in properly did so at the wrong precinct but were nevertheless allowed to vote.  However, this problem is not believed to have been as widespread as the other and is less likely to have affected election outcomes.

A Princeton University professor and a representative of a voting technology consulting company concluded that election workers allowed a “serious security lapse” to occur by placing memory cards containing May 2006 primary votes into ordinary laptops that could have been exposed to viruses.  Cuyahoga County Ohio Possibly Exposed Election System to Computer Virus, Press Release, November 2, 2006.  It was not alleged that the security lapse actually affected vote totals in either the May or November election.

Miscellaneous problems

  • Some voters complained about the lack of privacy offered by new voting machines.  Election Day generally goes smoothly, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 8, 2006.
  • In Summit County, it appeared as if voters who mailed in absentee ballots with insufficient postage would not have their ballots counted.  Ballot postage problem licked, Akron Beacon Journal, October 31, 2006.  However, the U.S. Postal Service stepped in and committed to deliver the ballots regardless of postage. 
  • In Miami County, ballots incorrectly identified State Issue 5—a proposed constitutional amendment against smoking—as a proposed statute, rather than an amendment.  Error stays on Miami County ballots, Dayton Daily News, October 27, 2006.  There was no time to fix the ballots, but officials posted notices at polling places to point out the error.
  • In Cuyahoga County, officials began asking would-be poll workers whether they were felons.  Election board finds felons worked polls, Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 30, 2006.  Prior to this election, officials had not asked this question, and apparently allowed some felons to serve as poll workers in violation of Ohio law.
  • News groups sued for the right to perform exit polling within 100 feet of polling places.  Exit-poll rules targeted, Akron Beacon Journal, October 25, 2006.
  • A voter challenged Ted Strickland’s voter registration on residency grounds; the challenge was later withdrawn.  Hearing halted in Strickland’s voting dispute, Akron Beacon Journal, October 24, 2006.
  • A law allowing poll workers to require proof of citizenship from foreign-born voters was struck down in Boustani v. BlackwellU.S. court blocks part of voting law, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 5, 2006.
  • Voting rights groups established a toll-free hotline for voters experiencing confusion over the ID rules or difficulties at the polls.  Lawyers will stand ready to sort out voting issues, Dayton Daily News, November 2, 2006.
  • In Miami County, officials had to recruit about forty last-minute poll workers when the original workers called off due to various family emergencies.  Miami County officials rush to deal with late poll issues, Dayton Daily News, November 16, 2006.
  • After paying approximately $17 million for new touch-screen voting machines, the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners decided those machines are insufficient to conduct a presidential election.  Commissioners want new voting machines, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 29, 2006.  The Commissioners now want the county to purchase optical scan machines that can process more voters per machine than touch-screen machines.
  • The Ohio Democratic Party sued to force the Secretary of State to permit certain Democratic poll observers to observe voting.  Ohio Democrats sue to add election-day observers, Contra Costa Times, November 3, 2006.  The Secretary of State claimed the observers could not observe voting because the Democratic Party failed to file before the relevant deadline the proper paperwork identifying the observers; Democrats responded that previous practice had allowed them to file the paperwork at the last minute provided they earlier filed a “filler” document.  The judge on the case ordered that the observers be allowed to perform their jobs.
  • For other litigation surrounding the November election, see Major Pending Cases or the Major Pending Cases Archives.