Potential for Voting Delays

The Crawford County Board of Elections will debut 155 new electronic voting machines on November 8th. In anticipation of potential problems they're hiring rovers to travel the county and make sure the machines are running smoothly. What the board of elections hasn't done is put information on their website that might aid voters in the use of these news machines. This is happening in counties all over Ohio.

Because turnout of the sort seen last November is not expected this election day a number of Ohio counties are taking this opportunity to debut new voting machines. About 41 counties will bring out new touchscreen voting machines. Better to experiment with the new machines during a down year election, the thinking goes, than in 2006 when congressional and statewide positions will be on the ballot. But when the use of these new machines is coupled with the somewhat complicated (and well advertised) five statewide issues up for a vote on November 8th, Ohio voters might see some more lines at the ballot box. In order to mitigate some confusion before election day, many county boards of elections have offered help on their sites.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections posts a large picture of their new Diebold machine that links directly to a short video presentation about the use of the touchscreen; this video is nicely done and in the span of a couple of minutes can dispel many of the fears that voters may have. Stark County offers a similar video that shows a closer look at an actual mock ballot (including a voter who, for some reason, chooses John Adams over both Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson). Ashland County actually offers a simulation right on the computer screen; it looks exactly the same as the screen will look on election day except the names are clearly there as examples (and you can't actually touch the screen to make the selections). Other boards of elections, like Wood county, offer color pamphlet guides to their touchscreen machines.

The Fairfield County Board of Elections, which is also unveiling new machines this November, has a link on their website to the manufacturer Diebold. This linked site offers many of the same features as other boards of elections do but Ohioans need to navigate the company's site to get to useful information. In Morgan County a board of elections member will introduce the machines in a training session

Like Crawford, many boards of elections don't have any information about voting procedures on their websites but offer phone numbers for Ohioans to call with questions. Some boards of elections offer no website at all so it is difficult for voters to get any information. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, curiously, offers a wealth of information about the evolution of electronic voting, the process by which Diebold got the contract and the contract itself, but no helpful explanation of the process of actually voting using the machines. This may be partly because in Cuyahoga County, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, there has been much vocal skepticism about the use of the Diebold machines.

Fortunately, there is no reason why Ohio voters from all counties can't look at the many helpful and well done sites from other parts of the state. For a list of county websites, see here.

Another way for voters to facilitate a quicker election process this year is to be familiar with the five statewide issues on the ballot. Many organizations and groups (including this site) offer links to the ballot language, brief explanations and pros and cons of the issues as a way of educating voters. An educated voter can not only express their will but also do so quickly.

"I think it's safe to say there will probably be lines to some degree," the Columbus Dispatch quoted Keith Cunningham, the president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials as saying. But voters who are prepared for the new machines and have read the issues in advance can go a long way toward making these lines disappear.