Electronic voting machines nixed
COLUMBUS Lorain County and two other counties that were considering a switch to electronic voting machines for the November election will not be allowed to do so because of concerns about the machines' security, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said yesterday.
However, Lorain County Board of Elections member Thomas Smith, said the county will be prepared to use its current punch card system in the November elections.
Lorain, Hardin, and Trumbull counties had tentatively agreed to use the machines made by North Canton-based Diebold Inc. Mercer County decided this week to stick with its current system, Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said. The other three counties will do likewise, LoParo said.
Smith said he wasn't surprised by the decision. ''I never expected it to get cleared in Columbus.''
Board members aren't disappointed and Smith said the decision is a ''mixed blessing.''
The punch card system and the electronic voting each have their own problems, Smith said. If people feel safer with paper ballots, then he believes they have to ''guard the confidence in the voting process.''
The board developed a contingency plan more than four months ago and ordered their ballot supply more than a month ago, he said.
''We're in good shape and ready to have a good election,'' he said.
Mercer, Lorain and Trumbull counties will use punch-card ballots on Nov. 2, while Hardin will use cards read by an electronic scanner. Of Ohio's 88 counties, 69 will use punch cards, 13 will use scanners and six will use electronic voting, though not Diebold machines.
Blackwell said he made his decision based on a preliminary study of a second round of security tests. The first round found 57 problems, most security related, in the machines made by the three vendors picked to supply them Diebold, Electronic Systems and Software, and Hart Intercivic.
Diebold was the only vendor to submit new software and hardware for retesting. Blackwell's office said the results of those tests would be released when the full study was complete.
LoParo said the counties knew they would have to use existing systems if questions about security remained after the second round of testing by Detroit-based Compuware Corp.
''The counties were told several months ago to make contingency plans,'' LoParo said. ''There was disappointment that the system did not obtain our security requirements, but an understanding that our systems must be secure.''
Mark Radke, director of marketing for Diebold Election Systems, said the company had received no information from Blackwell on any remaining security problems.
''We are anxious to learn the areas where the consultant believes additional work is needed,'' Radke said in a statement. Diebold spokesman Mike Jacobson said the company had no further comment.
Thirty-one counties with either punch-card or lever voting systems had originally planned to replace their machines for this year's election, but most backed out as the election drew closer. Most of those counties use punch card ballots, the type that plagued the Florida vote in the 2000 presidential election.
The ACLU has sued the state over the lack of electronic voting, saying that relying on punch cards discriminates against blacks, who mostly live in punch-card counties. The suit claims that more punch-card votes are not counted because of overvoting than in other systems and some voters do no complete their ballots. The trial is set to begin on July 25.
Richard Saphire, a University of Dayton law professor representing the ACLU, said he wasn't surprised by Blackwell's decision and it does not affect the lawsuit.
''There's still a lot of reticence on the part of county officials to buy into it. From their point of view it's not the sensible thing to do,'' Saphire said. ''A piecemeal approach isn't going to accomplish that we want to accomplish.''