No more "sleepovers" for Ohio voting machines

Sorry, Ohio election officials -- the secretary of state says you can no longer store voting machines in your homes.

Published August 20, 2008 5:21PM (EDT)

You're an election worker in Ohio. Sure, it's a tough job; you've got to deal with hundreds or thousands of voters every Election Day, and sometimes things get downright hectic. But at least you get to bring home the voting machines and keep 'em wherever you want the night before the ballots get cast!

Sadly, this time-honored -- albeit completely sketchy -- tradition will come to an end this November. (It was going on for so long it had a name -- "sleepovers.") Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announced Tuesday that the state had realized letting poll workers baby-sit voting machines in their homes, offices, cars or garages without any supervision the night before they're used was, well, maybe not the best plan in the world.

"Because security best practices cannot be adequately documented or enforced when machines are transported and stored in poll worker's homes, work places or automobiles, and because this places undue responsibility on poll workers, changes were needed," Brunner's office said in a statement. "Complex and sensitive voting equipment could be adversely affected by extreme temperatures and humidity, water damage, dust, and unauthorized use." Well, yes, it's the "unauthorized use" that seems like the biggest problem (though that's not to trivialize the terrible humidity outbreaks in election workers' homes).

Local officials had defended the practice after Brunner raised some questions about it, saying the only way to keep the machines safe from fraud was to, ahem, keep them hidden somewhere unofficial, where no one could see whether they were being tampered with. Somehow that logic failed to carry the day with Brunner, though apparently her predecessor, Ken Blackwell, didn't see it that way.

The announcement probably won't end speculation about whether Ohio's elections are fair this fall; the state's history, and its importance as a battleground, virtually guarantee heightened scrutiny. But at least the next investigation there won't involve rooting around in election officials' basements.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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