A nonprofit group hired by Ohio's most populous county to study its first experience with electronic voting machines says that problems with the system may be so serious that they can't be fixed in time for the November elections. As the Associated Press reports, the Election Science Institute has concluded that Cuyahoga County's election system "in its entirety exhibits shortcomings with extremely serious consequences, especially in the event of a close election."
The county rolled out its electronic voting machines for Ohio's primary in May. The results? The AP says that around 18,000 absentee ballots had to be hand-counted because they hadn't been formatted correctly; poll workers had trouble operating the voting machines, when they showed up for work at all; "vote memory cards" went missing; and one precinct -- 2004, anyone? -- opened four hours late. "Researchers found that the four sources used to keep track of vote totals on machines did not always add up," the AP reports. Why? Maybe because of a "lack of inventory controls and gaps in the chain of custody of mission critical assets."
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the report found that nearly 10 percent of the official ballots cast in Cuyahoga County in May were "destroyed, blank, illegible, missing, taped together or otherwise compromised." Under Ohio law, the "official ballot" is the paper record that the voting machines are supposed to produce; without them, a manual recount would be impossible and/or meaningless.
A spokesman for Diebold tells the AP that the report is flawed and blames inadequately trained poll workers for any problems with the company's machines. A spokesman for Ken Blackwell says the problem lies with local jurisdictions. "If the Board of Elections properly trains its poll workers and the poll workers follow the instruction, these problems will be taken care of," Blackwell spokesman James Lee tells the Plain Dealer.