Ohio election officials oppose voting changes

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Representatives of Ohio’s county election officials voted unanimously today (Wednesday) to oppose the secretary of state’s recommendation that all Ohio counties scrap their touch-screen voting machines and return to paper ballots.

The decision from the Ohio Association of Election Officials comes one week after Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner spoke at the association’s annual convention in Columbus. Association president Shannon Leininger says during that speech, Brunner failed to make a case for any election changes.

She put a survey out to the counties, and 70 of the board members surveyed don’t to change systems, Leininger says. I don’t know how clear that can be.

But Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner disagrees.

“Unfortunently it looks like the election officials’ views are inconsistent with the general public, Brunner says.

Brunner says Leininger’s numbers were correct at the time of the survey, but with the election nearing she’s garnering more support from county leaders. She adds that her office gets unsolicited comments from the public, and they’re overwhelmingly in support of the switch.

The proposal calls for all 57 counties using electronic or optical scan voting machines to switch to a paper ballot. The proposal comes on the heels of a report that state workers were able to hack into a touch-screen machine. Using a magnet and hand-held organizer, researchers were able to change votes, and also injected malicious software that could spread throughout the state database. Leininger says the chances of that happening in a real election are almost zero and shouldn’t factor into such an important decision. She says county leaders are busy enough during this presidential election year to worry about replacing equipment that most people think WORKS. Another issue at play is county sovereignty. Leininger contends the state’s revised code allows counties to use which equipment they see fit.

Brunner says that’s only half true.

“Counties by law are allowed to chose from machines that are certified by the state, but they have no say in which machines are certified and which are not, Brunner says.

Brunner says she’s yet to decertify any machines, and hopes the dispute can be resolved through debate and consensus. She says any changes would not be finalized for several weeks, and would not affect the upcoming March primaries.

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