Diebold taking blame for invalid election results
Thursday, December 7, 2006
By SEAN CASEY
ThisWeek Staff Writer
The Fairfield County Board of Elections recertified official election results last week after an error attributed to the voting machines' manufacturer produced inaccurate final vote counts.
According to elections board director Deborah Henderly, Diebold Election Systems failed to notify the county that the vote tabulation process required a change because the Ohio Secretary of State's office had removed Issue 1 from the ballot prior to election day Nov. 7. Consequently, the final summary reports certified by the board on Nov. 28 included some incorrect results, although the county's machines recorded all ballots accurately, she said.
Diebold had informed some other county elections boards that purchased voting machines from the company of the modification, but failed to alert Fairfield County.
The company has acknowledged fault for not notifying the board in time.
"They were taking full blame for this," Henderly said. "Had we had the correct procedure in place, we would not have encountered this problem."
However, the board did not realize the inaccuracy of the results it had certified until a phone call alerted it to discrepancies between those numbers and the board's unofficial tallies.
Henderly said the election board generally compares the unofficial counts with the canvassed results, but did not in this instance. She did not give a reason why.
After the discovery, the board retabulated vote results using Diebold's revised instructions. By 9 p.m. Nov. 28, nearly seven hours after it first certified results, the board declared the the first canvass invalid and approved the corrected results.
Because the board discovered the error after ThisWeek in Pickerington's deadline, a story appeared in last week's edition that stated a Sunday alcohol sales option for the Old Town Tavern, 10985 Winchester Road, had failed, even though election night counts showed it passing.
As initially reported, the liquor option easily won approval, receiving 62.3 percent of the vote, or 328 of the 526 ballots cast, according to the newly certified results. The board's first official canvass showed that area residents had rejected the sales option, approving the measure on just 39.6 percent of the ballots, or 209 of the 528 total votes cast.
Similarly, the results first certified by the board of elections showed the Central Ohio Transit Authority's 10-year, 0.25-percent sales tax winning approval in Fairfield County, although corrected vote tallies revealed the measure actually lost in these districts.
In accordance with election night's unofficial results, the COTA tax received 1,200 of the 2,504 votes, or just 47.9 percent of the ballots cast in Fairfield County on the issue. The measure, which COTA will use to increase the frequency of bus runs, extend operation hours and provide direct crosstown lines to improve service to Columbus suburbs, did earn overall approval, however, winning support in Franklin County.
Additionally, the 28-year, $59.9-million bond issue proposed by the Pickerington Local School District to construct three new facilities did not pass by a much larger percentage than initial results showed.
Coinciding with election night counts, final results have the issue winning 55.1 percent of the vote, or 10,000 of the 18,148 ballots cast. The tallies first certified by the election board showed the schools receiving 61.4 percent of the vote.
Henderly said the voting machines recorded all of the votes cast in Fairfield County accurately, but the change to the tabulation processes necessitated by Issue 1's removal from the ballot produced the inaccurate summary reports.
Diebold spokesmand David Bear did not return three phone calls by press time.