Hassles and dire warning for election officials

NORWALK The presidential election is long over and yet officials say hassles endure.
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

NORWALK

The presidential election is long over and yet officials say hassles endure.

Word of a new Ohio Secretary of State directive reached the Huron County Board of Elections recently.

Counties using touch-screen voting machines must re-scan all paper ballots, according to an e-mail from Alice Teynor, regional liaison for Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Twelve boxes full of optical scan ballots had to be retrieved from the County Administration Building's basement. Every last ballot will have to be re-scanned, said Sharon Locke, Board of Elections director.

"The directive addresses the whole official count, but it's never been in here before that we had to re-scan paper ballots as part of the official count -- but now we do," Locke said.

Locke and other election officials shudder at the task ahead of them.

Scanning the ballots -- which were a mix of absentee, provisional and election day ballots -- took four people more than 25 hours to complete, Locke said.

Two teams of two part-time workers handled the scanning duties.

Now those part-time helpers are gone. Locke said it could take election staff much longer to finish, considering they would still have to answer phones and juggle other responsibilities.

All the while, an ominous deadline looms. Board of Elections deputy director Tom Gerrity said failing to submit an official count to the state by Nov. 25 is a felony crime.

The Secretary of State's directive makes little to no sense, county officials claim. Locke said it will take dozens of hours to re-scan all 4,500 paper ballots and the whole point of the machines is they have memory cards that can be uploaded with little hassle.

"Those memory cards, on election night when we're finished with them, are locked up," she said. "No one can add to them, no one can take away from them. I mean, we upload them and verify that count from the official night -- so nothing is going to change."

But Kevin Kidder, Secretary of State spokesman, said this is being done for the sake of accuracy.

"It's a good practice -- you want to verify (the count)," he said. "We're coming to the official certification of the election. We want to make sure every vote is correct."

Before this directive was handed down, Huron County election officials were estimating needing $22,000 more from the Board of Commissioners to finish out the year. That amount is sure to increase as elections officials try to satisfy Brunner's directive.

County commissioners said they would look into the matter.