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County officials embarrassed by slow count


Associated Press    10 November 2005

CINCINNATI - Election boards in some Ohio counties are irate and embarrassed by vote-counting delays that held up results for hours, and state officials said Thursday they will try to find out what went wrong.

Machine problems were blamed in some counties, lack of training in others as 44 of Ohio's 88 counties used touch screen or optical scan systems for the first time.

"It doesn't seem to have been a disaster, but clearly there were some problems," said Daniel Tokaji, an Ohio State University expert on election law and voting machine law.

"With any transition, there are going to be some glitches. The message I really want to send is we need to rely on careful analysis rather than seat-of-the-pants judgments."

In Scioto County, counting wasn't finished until about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"When things go as poorly as they did, the board of elections will face a lot of criticism, and in this case I think it's unfair," board chairman Steve Mowery told the Portsmouth Daily Times.

He said some machines were not tested sufficiently, and some absentee ballots were too wide to process and had to be trimmed with scissors.

North Canton-based Diebold Inc., which made the machines, and Dayton Legal Blank Inc., which supplied the ballots, accepted blame for the delays.

"We want to make sure we understand the problems and the process as well as you do," said Bob Urosevich, Diebold's director of strategic planning. "It was a surprise to us that it went so poorly."

David Keeler, president of Dayton Legal Blank, said five other counties - Brown, Crawford, Jackson, Jefferson and Marion - had difficulties with absentee ballots. He said the difference in the width of the ballot that caused the problems was about four human hairs and it was a result of human error.

Dayton Legal Blank supplies ballots and services 85 of Ohio's 88 counties. All 41 of the new touch-screen systems, and Scioto's optical scan machines, were from Diebold.

Two optical scan systems are from Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software.

A few counties reported minor problems in a mostly smooth election.

In Wood County, which didn't post final results until 6:23 a.m., deputy director Debbie Hazard said workers at four polling places inadvertently chose the wrong option on the machines, preventing voting machine memory cards from being automatically uploaded.

In Montgomery County, where final results were reported at 6:43 a.m., some poll workers said they did not know how to tabulate the memory cards. Some board employees had to be rousted from bed at 4 a.m. to return to the polling places and retrieve the missing cards.

Lucas County was last in reporting, releasing final results about 9 a.m.

"The problem in Toledo was after the polls closed," said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. "It wasn't the voting process."

Instead of having each precinct hand deliver the machine cartridges to the board of elections, the county used rovers who picked up from several precincts, causing delays.

"The votes were tabulated correctly. The problems were simple management issues," LoParo said, such as disseminating results. "They apparently didn't test their election night Web site until election night, and when they turned it on, it didn't work."

LoParo said the Lucas board has had several leadership changes and has been on administrative oversight the past four years.

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