voting

Candidate pushed for funding for new voting machines

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Frank LaRose got a close-up look at the Wood County voting machines that will be replaced next year with funding he pushed through the Ohio Senate. Wood County’s 12-year-old touchscreen systems are faring better than voting machines in some counties, where spare parts have been scrounged up from Tractor Supply stores or paper clip stashes. “This is an investment for a long time with the state, so we have reliable, safe machines,” State Senator LaRose, the Republican candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, said Thursday as he stopped in Bowling Green. Senate Bill 135, sponsored by LaRose, sets aside $114.5 million for new voting machines in Ohio. Wood County’s share is $1.3 million. The funding for the voting machines comes as the current systems get closer and closer to being obsolete. Wood County’s machines were built in 2006, said Terry Burton, director of the county board of elections.. “In the grand scheme of things, when you’re talking about technology,” the systems are almost antiques. Though Burton credits the local board of elections staff with babying the systems to keep them functioning well. “Every election, we see a little bit more wear and tear,” Burton said. “It’s time.” Wood County currently has 575 functional voting machines. Senate Bill 135 is intended to replace all the voting machines in the state – as long as county boards of election are satisfied with the “Chevrolets” and not the “Cadillacs” of voting machines, LaRose said. However, in Wood County, Burton said the $1.3 million from the state will be about $3 million shy of the total expected cost of $4.2 million. “It’s not going to cover it all,” Burton said. “I’ve looked at it all along as a helper. I’m not going to complain about getting $1.3 million.” Wood County Board of Elections doesn’t want the “Cadillac” of voting systems, but it doesn’t want the “Chevrolet” either, Burton said. “We’re looking for the SUV,” he said. “We’re looking for a system that’s hardy.” The total state funding is being divided up among counties based on the number of registered voters and the size of the counties, LaRose said. Wood County Board of Elections has decided to stick with touchscreen systems, not the optical scans. The touchscreens will be larger and will move more like mobile technology, Burton said. The Wood County Commissioners have been prepared for the fact that the board of elections will need additional funding to replace the current voting machines. The costs from vendors will not be available till next month, but Burton said the commissioners are aware it may cost the county about $3 million. “Obviously, we’re going to have a big ask from them,” he said. “We can get a solid system for a number that we can afford,” Burton said. All of the voting machines must be converted over at once, since the current ones are 12 years old. “The systems won’t even talk to each other,” he said. Wood County Board of Elections’ goal is to have the new systems in place for the “manageable” May primary next year. “We want to have it in place for a while before the presidential election,” Burton said. “By the time we hit the primary in 2020, everything’s figured out.” State Senator…


Nearly 300 local absentee ballots get lost in the mail

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Board of Elections sent out 10,229 absentee ballots for the Nov. 8 election. Once they were placed in the mail, the board thought its work was done until the completed ballots were mailed back in. But then they started getting phone calls. Absentee ballots mailed out on Oct. 12 still hadn’t gotten to many voters – primarily those who lived out of state or in the North Baltimore and Fostoria areas. The voters were advised to wait a little bit, that the ballots were in the mail. It now appears many ballots made it to the Detroit mail sorting center in Pontiac, Michigan, but didn’t get any further than that. “Once we drop it in the mail, we lose control,” Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton said Saturday morning. “We rely on that system to do what it should.” “This happens in every election. It just happened a little bit more in this election,” Burton said. And Wood County is not alone. It appears that many absentee ballots from all over Northwest Ohio have not made it to their intended destinations. “What happened to those ballots? Where they got hung up, we don’t know,” Burton said. “While I would like to rail the postal system – and there may be a time for that – what we are focusing on now is correcting the problem.” So as of Saturday morning, the Wood County Board of Elections has reissued nearly 300 absentee ballots for those missing, and has suspended the initial ballots sent out. Each ballot has an absentee number, so the missing ones can be canceled and new ones issued. “So at least we can make sure they can vote,” Burton said. The majority of the initial absentee ballots went out without a hitch. Some residents in Bowling Green and Perrysburg reported “getting them practically overnight.” And as of Saturday morning, 5,279 completed absentee ballots had been returned to the board of elections. Some of the voters who called to report they hadn’t received absentee ballots have since gotten the original ones in the mail. In those cases, they are being advised to call the board of elections and read off the ballot number to make sure the ballot is still activated. The Wood County Board of Elections is trying to ensure everyone who wants to vote absentee has a ballot to do so. “If they’ve called in, we’ve reissued them a ballot. It’s better that we get something to them,” Burton said. “We’re just trying to manage the situation as we can. We are trying to control what we can control.” But Burton realizes the board of elections is in a real “time crunch,” with the election just 10 days away. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by the day before the election, Nov. 7, and must be received by the board within 10 days after the election to count. It has helped that higher authorities have gotten involved in solving the problem, Burton said. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and U.S. Rep. Bob Latta have pushed for the ballots to be located. And the Postmaster General has “cleansed” the Pontiac postal center to make sure any ballots received there are sent out. That appears to have…