Elections board split on new equipment

By Cecilia Fox - Troy Daily News

MIAMI COUNTY — The Miami County Board of Elections were split in a vote Wednesday night on voting equipment.

Board Chairman Dave Fisher called for a vote on a paper ballot system, which resulted in a tie vote. Discussion will continue at a future meeting.

Fisher and Audrey Gillespie voted in favor of the paper system. Board members Ryan King and Rob Long voted no, with Long adding, “I will reconsider that at a later date.”

The county has been offered just over $1 million from the state for new equipment. The county received quotes for options including a system in which voters fill in a paper ballot that is then scanned and recorded, a fully electronic touchscreen system that does not print a paper record, and a hybrid system in which voters use a touchscreen to mark a ballot, which is then printed on paper. The hybrid system is an updated version of the system the county currently uses.

King said he is not in favor of a paper system, though he said that Clear Ballot, one of the companies that submitted a quote to the county, is “doing good things in that world.” He has previously argued against paper ballots, saying that the county would be taking a step back technologically from its current touchscreen system.

King also said that he is interested in seeing trends in the percentage of Ohio counties that choose electronic or paper ballot systems, although he added that “every county has different dynamics.”

“I want to be on the majority side,” he said. “We’re making guesses about which direction things are going … If 90 percent of the state, hypothetically, is working off a machine, I believe that you’re going to see the progress be toward machines.”

Long said he preferred not to vote on a system Wednesday night because of a number of upcoming changes in the state legislature and offices and the Miami County Board of Commissioners as new people take office.

“There’s a number of different things that will change come Jan. 1,” he said.

Fisher noted that there were issues with machines at the last election and new machines need to be purchased “sooner than later.”

“Eventually, you have to go or get off the pot,” he said.

Fisher argued that the electronic equipment offered by ES&S is “already 10 years old.”

“When we talk about electronics, you have to replace those electronics about every 10 years,” he said.

Fisher said that the Clear Ballot hand-marked paper ballot system will “grow with us,” pointing to interchangeable parts and software that can be updated. Hand-marked ballots are scanned and recorded electronically.

He has previously said that hand-marked paper ballots are simpler and more reliable.

At a meeting in September, the Miami County Commissioners told the board to choose the “best system for the voters and for the Board of Elections staff,” even if the cost exceeds the reimbursement from the state.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the board also had a demonstration of the Clear Ballot voting system. A representative from the company said that five Ohio counties have formally committed to using their equipment and there are verbal commitments from “a few others.”

By Cecilia Fox

Troy Daily News

Reach Cecilia Fox at cfox@troydailynews.com.

Reach Cecilia Fox at cfox@troydailynews.com.