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