October 23, 2014

Elyria
Partly sunny
53°F
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Lorain County voting machines can stay

SHEFFIELD TWP. — Officials won’t have to toss $5 million in electronic voting equipment, the county Board of Elections learned Thursday.

Touch-screen voting machines have been under fire in Cuyahoga County since the Nov. 6 election, when software made by Diebold Inc. crashed twice.

That caused big delays in counting the ballots. It also convinced officials to scrap Cuyahoga County’s $21 million machines in favor of paper ballots and optical scanners.

But a report Thursday from Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said those drastic measures aren’t necessary here.

The state is not going to force anyone to stop using touch-screen machines, because investigators found that problems in the Cleveland area are unique, Lorain County elections board Chairman Thomas Smith said.

Eight spot-on recounts following the November election are evidence that Lorain County’s system is accurate, he said.

Board member Robert Rousseau was relieved to read the report because returning to paper ballots would be very costly, he said.

By law, the board would have to buy enough ballots for 101 percent of registered voters, he said — even though only about 20 percent turned out in the last election.

Electronic ballots also let the board put as many as a dozen precincts under the same roof, like at Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Amherst or Heritage Assembly of God Church in Avon, Rousseau said.

County Election Board Director Jose Candelario said even with electronic machines the payroll on Election Day is $150,000. That figure would shoot through the roof with paper machines because he would have to staff more polling sites, he said.

Downgrading to old-style ballots would also mean six months of training on the equipment for staffers, he said.

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.