Ohio County May Junk E-Voting Machines

CLEVELAND – The commissioners of the state’s most populous county are considering getting rid of touch-screen voting machines and putting in a new system for the presidential election in 2008.

Cuyahoga County spent $14 million on the Nov. 7 election and cannot afford to spend that much every time voters go to the polls, especially the high volume that a presidential race generates, commissioners Tim Hagan and Jimmy Dimora said.

“In 2008, we’re going to be in a predicament,” Dimora said. “Our system can’t handle the number of voters.”

“Even though we have a substantial amount of money in it, we’re considering scrapping the whole system,” Hagan said. The touch-screen machines, first used in the May primary, cost $17 million.

The 2004 election in Ohio — where a narrow win gave President Bush the votes he needed for re-election — was marked by hours-long lines at some polls and other problems. Because of concerns about a repeat of problems in the county’s botched May primary, when equipment and other problems caused lengthy delays, the count spent millions more than budgeted in November to cover poll worker training, extra machines and mailing absentee voting applications to every voter to avert polling-place lines and problems.The general election ran more smoothly, although a judge ordered 16 polling locations to stay open an extra 90 minutes because early voting machine problems caused delays.

Hagan and Dimora said they want high-speed, optical-scan machines, which read paper ballots, to replace the touch-screen machines. Hagan said the commissioners need to decide this year.

Even though Cuyahoga’s optical ballot-scanning machines caused delays in May, election official Tom Hayes told the commissioners that counties with new optical-scan machines can handle increased demand by simply adding more places where voters can fill out paper ballots, rather than having to install more touch-screen machines.

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