Ohio primary election reportedly marred by electronic poll book malfunctions
Four Ohio counties experienced problems with the technology on Tuesday, leading to reports of delays and voters leaving without voting.
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During Ohio's primary election on Tuesday, some counties experienced difficulties with electronic poll books, causing delays and leading to some voters leaving without voting as precincts had to shift to paper poll books.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose noted that Cuyahoga and Lucas counties, which both use the same vendor, were experiencing issues with their electronic poll books. He added that Lake County also reported having problems with checking in voters, but all three counties were able to transition to paper poll books.
"Problems like this can occur, and that's why there's always a backup plan," LaRose said, according to Cleveland.com. "It may take a little longer to check people in, but certainly nothing that would impact the integrity of the process or their ability to cast a ballot."
The Secretary of State's office tweeted: "We are aware of potential check-in issues in Lucas and Cuyahoga counties. We are in contact with the county board of elections staff and are working with them to resolve the issue.
"To be very clear, no voters should be turned away due to these issues."
Some voters claimed on social media that they were turned away from their polling locations as a result of the malfunction, while others said they left before being able to vote.
"It should absolutely not have happened," LaRose said of voters claiming to have been turned away, according to News 5 Cleveland, a local ABC affiliate. "If that happened, and again a lot of things fly around on social media that may or may not be accurate, but if that happened, then you have a poll worker that either misspoke or was not paying attention in their training or both. Voters are never turned away from a polling location, that's something that we simply do not permit."
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections spokesperson Mike West explained the issue with the electronic poll books in a statement, saying that they were "not automatically recording the stub numbers" on ballots issued to voters.
"This does not affect the ability of voters to cast ballots," West said. "Poll workers are entering the stub numbers into the Electronic Poll Books manually or recording the stub numbers on back-up paper poll books."
The electronic poll books were down for about 90 minutes after opening at 6:30 a.m., but by 8:10 a.m., the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections tweeted: "If any voter left a Polling Location today without voting, please return prior to 7:30 p.m. to cast your ballot. All Electronic Poll Books are now able to automatically record ballot stub numbers. At no time were ballots not able to be read by a ballot scanner."
LaRose said the issues arose as a result of limited time for poll worker training with the state's delay in redistricting. The Ohio Redistricting Commission, which LaRose serves on, has had four of its legislative maps rejected by the state Supreme Court.
"I've been warning that there could be logistical problems ... It's intuitive," he said, according to Cleveland.com. "When a process routinely takes about 100 days, and you compress that down into 45 days, these kinds of things can happen."
Because of this, county boards of elections "were working weekends and evenings, they were bringing in extra temp staff, and when things get rushed, when compressed time lines are required by all of the litigation that we saw with redistricting, these are the kinds of things that can happen," LaRose told News 5 Cleveland.
As a result of electronic poll book issues in Lucas County, Republican voters only saw Democrat candidates on their ballots, and Democrat voters only saw Republican candidates on theirs, WKSU reported.
In a statement Tuesday morning, the Lucas County Board of Elections explained that the issue was with the vendor, Tenex, as the electronic poll books printed incorrect barcodes on ballot cards.
Poll workers followed backup procedures, and voters who received an incorrect ballot were able to either create a new one on the voting machine or request a paper ballot.
By the afternoon, the county's Board of Elections announced on Twitter that the vendor error had been corrected.
The Williams County Board of Elections also said that polling locations experienced "difficulty providing voters with the correct ballot" but that they were printing new ballots, which "may lead to short delays."
The secretary of state said his office is planning to compile a report following the election to determine the exact issues and how to prevent them from happening again, according to Cleveland.com.
Phill Kline, director of election integrity group the Amistad Project, told Just the News on Wednesday that rather than making elections more convenient, using technology in their administration is having the opposite effect.
"The move to all this electronic stuff has made our election system more vulnerable, not less, and reduces transparency," Kline said. "There are very few people who understand the software and how it works. We need to have elections where the average citizen can watch a count and understand what's happening. We moved to machines for convenience and efficiency, but they're not more convenient or efficient."
He added that in battleground states during the 2020 presidential election, left-wing organizations had access to electronic poll books, allowing them to register votes for one party, but right-wing organizations didn't have the same access.
"That's wrong," said Kline, the former attorney general of Kansas. "And that doesn't happen with paper ballots."
France, which just had a presidential election last month, uses voter ID and paper ballots for their tens of millions of voters, Kline noted.
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