Site Map
Voting News
Contact Us
About Us

is NOT!
associated with

Two precincts had high undercounts, analysis shows.
By Ken McCall and Jim Bebbington for Dayton Daily News. 18 November 2004

Two Montgomery County precincts had extraordinarily high numbers of ballots cast Nov. 2 with no presidential vote counted, and the county's overall rates of such undercounts were highest where Democratic hopeful John Kerry did best.

Undercounts are ballots that do not register a vote for a particular race, in this case for president. Two precincts ? one in Kettering and another in Washington Twp. ? had undercounts of more than 25 percent, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of the county's unofficial results.

Overall in Montgomery County, 5,693 or 2 percent of the ballots cast registered no valid vote for president.

As predicted by political scientists, who say the poor and less-educated are more likely to have problems with punch card voting, the rate of so-called undercounted presidential ballots was higher in Democratic areas of the county than in Republican strongholds.

The undercount amounted to 2.8 percent of the ballots in the 231 precincts that supported Kerry, but only 1.6 percent of those cast in the 354 precincts that supported President Bush.

"That again, certainly, is torture," said Dennis Lieberman, the Montgomery County Democratic chairman.

Across the state on Nov. 2, counties that used punch-card voting, as Montgomery County did, had a higher rate of undercounted ballots than counties that used optical scanning technology or electronic voting machines, which had the lowest undercount.

With punch cards, undercounts can occur when a voter:

? Inadvertently votes for two candidates in the same race.

? Decides not to vote in the race.

? Does not sufficiently puncture the punch card to eliminate a "hanging chad." Hanging chads can make it impossible for machines to read the punch cards.

The highest undercount rate in Montgomery County was in precinct Washington X, around Paragon Road and Spring Valley Pike in Washington Twp.

In the precinct, 168 or 27.5 percent of the 611 ballots cast did not have a good presidential vote. That was followed closely by Kettering 3-A, near Stroop Road and Far Hills Avenue, where 121 or 27.3 percent of the 444 ballots cast were undercounted.

Both of those precincts supported Bush, as did seven of the 10 precincts with the highest rate of undercounted presidential ballots. That's despite the county's overall trend, in which precincts where Kerry did well tended to have above-average undercounts, while precincts where Bush won had lower-than-average undercounts.

County elections officials said they have no reports of any problems at either Washington X or Kettering 3-A. The punch-card voting stands, checked Wednesday using demonstration ballots, appeared to work appropriately.

The presiding judge of Washington X, Shirley Wightman, a 40-year veteran of working polling places, said voters in her precinct encountered no problems.

"We checked the machines periodically and I could see nothing wrong with them," she said.

Wightman said turnout was high that day and there were 16 provisional voters at the precinct, a higher-than-normal number. But those provisionals do not account for the under-votes and won't be tabulated until next Monday, after officials confirm the registration of those voters.

One voter reported having trouble pushing her ballot into the slot in the voting machine, but she had not pushed the card in far enough and a poll worker helped her, Wightman said.

"Other than that things went pretty smooth," she said.

Two Washington X voters said they checked for hanging chads on their ballots before turning them in and found none.

"I personally checked mine and it punched the number I wanted," said Heather Baarlaer of Washington Twp.

Rates that high show something must have gone wrong, said Larry J. Sabato, a political scientist from the University of Virginia. Undercounts during presidential elections are typically between 1 percent and 2 percent, he said.

"It is very difficult to believe that a quarter of the people would not vote for president, especially in a year like this," Sabato said. "If I were the election officers in those areas I would be doing some very extensive checks of those machines."

Moraine had the highest presidential undercount of all the county's jurisdictions: 5.6 percent of the 2,557 votes cast in the city's seven precincts had no valid presidential vote. It was followed by Germantown with 3.6 percent undercount, Trotwood with 3.1 percent and Dayton with 2.8 percent. Both Moraine and Germantown supported Bush, with margins of 2 percent and 34 percent respectively, while Trotwood and Dayton went heavily for Kerry by margins of 60 percent and 45 percent.

Montgomery County, along with the rest of the state, is moving away from punch-card voting systems, but efforts to buy computer-based machines this year stalled as the state legislature added requirements that machines used in Ohio also create a paper-copy of the votes cast.

That was in response to concerns that computer-based voting systems could be hacked or corrupted and, without a paper trail, there would be no way to verify the vote.

The county has until January 2006, to replace its machines to qualify for federal funds to help pay for the switch.

Steve Harsman, deputy director of the county board of elections, said Congress is expected to take up the debate over voting systems again and if it does that deadline could be pushed back even further.

Next year, local voters will decide school board, township and municipal seats, including Dayton mayor.

"I think the (Nov. 2) results certainly justify the replacement of the machines but I don't know that at this stage an extra effort is going to accomplish anything," Lieberman said.

"It's going along pretty quickly. These results work against any argument for delay."

Sabato said results like those found in Montgomery County reinforce why proposed electronic voting systems should have included in them a mandatory paper record of the votes cast.

Some problems with punch-card voting systems did crop up Nov. 2. In a West Carrollton precinct a voter tried to use a sharpened pencil to punch their card instead of the metal stylus chained to the voting booth. The pencil broke off in the machine and would have blocked other voters from punching through a vote for Bush, according to county Republican Chairman John White.

The voter told poll workers what had happened and the machine was fixed.

"This has been a problem since the beginning of time with everything but paper ballots," Sabato said. "We need to keep in perspective a very important fact: There has never been a perfect election. Never. Not in the United States, not in any country in the world. It is impossible to run a perfect election with this many people voting in a 16- to 20-hour period, and it's amazing we get it done at all."

Previous Page

Election Problem Log image
2004 to 2009


Accessibility Issues
Accessibility Issues

Cost Comparisons
Cost Comparisons

Flyers & Handouts

VotersUnite News Exclusives

Search by

Copyright © 2004-2010 VotersUnite!