More than 100 Hamilton County poll workers got fired Tuesday for failing to do the one thing that matters most on Election Day. They didn’t vote. The board of elections said goodbye to the 104 workers after learning they had not voted in either the 2013 or 2014 elections, despite spending most of those Election Days in a polling place, surrounded by voters and ballots. “I’m frankly kind of shocked by the number of people on that list,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the board and leader of Hamilton County’s Democratic Party. “We want everyone to vote. If we have poll workers who don’t vote, we’re not encouraging that.”
Articles about voting issues in Ohio.
When Ohioans go to vote in person on Election Day, they go to their local precinct polling stations. But in some states, voters go to larger centers that are designated by the counties. That idea was recently floated at a meeting of Ohio elections officials. Those centers are not likely to be a reality in the near future. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports. Ohio’s elections officials have long said they want to reduce the number of provisional ballots cast in Ohio elections. Many times those are cast because voters go to the wrong precinct. But Aaron Ockerman with the Ohio Association of Election Officials says one way to eliminate that problem is by going to large voting centers instead of neighborhood precincts.
Ohio voters would lose most of their Election Day polling places under a plan for centralized voting pushed by the head of the group representing county elections officials. Urban areas such as Franklin County could see a reduction of 60 to 75 percent, translating into a potential drop from the current 404 voting locales to perhaps a little more than 100. The tradeoffs: Voters could cast a ballot from any polling location in their home county. And the cost to run elections would drop substantially, especially with most Ohio counties due to replace aging voting equipment. “The more I talk to people nationally, the more I read and learn, this has the potential to be a game-changer for voters, for taxpayers and for elections administrators,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. “We’ve got to be more efficient. We have to take advantage of technology and think outside of the box.”
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said Jan. 14 he’ll continue to push to allow Ohioans to register electronically to vote and for a system that will enable those casting ballots by mail to track their submissions online. Husted offered the recommendations during the winter conference of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, where he recapped election-related accomplishments of the last year and gave a snapshot of some of his priorities in advance of the 2016 presidential contest. Husted continued to call for state lawmakers to pass legislation to allow voters to register online. Eligible residents already can update their information via the secretary of state’s website.
When you cast a ballot on Election Day, can you be sure your vote will count? Ohio is relying on “ancient” voting equipment to carry out that fundamental responsibility of democracy, says a Buckeye State native newly appointed to a federal commission that sets standards for voting devices. The iPhone was still two years in the future when most Ohio counties obtained their voting devices, said Matthew Masterson, a former top official with the Ohio secretary of state’s office who began work this week as one of four members of the federal Elections Assistance Commission. Even worse, Ohio’s setup is based on technology from the 1990s, he said yesterday during the Ohio Association of Election Officials’ winter conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “Your voting technology is old. It’s ancient by technology standards,” said Masterson, who admits to being an elections geek. “I don’t know how old your office computer is, but I wouldn’t keep mine for a decade. And we’re asking people to run elections on it.”
Ohio should do more than just put absentee ballots in the hands of voters, the state’s top elections official said Wednesday. It should also reassure those voters that those ballots were ultimately counted. “With the increased popularity of our vote-by-mail program, we should also take steps to ensure that we do what we can to build confidence in that system as well,” Secretary of State Jon Husted told the Ohio Association of Election Officials at their winter conference. “A major step in this direction is to do for all voters what we already do for military voters, and that is to ensure that all Ohio voters can track their absentee ballots online,” he said. He wants local boards of elections to have such a system up and running by the presidential primary election of 2016 when the eyes of the nation again turn to the critical battleground state. That would serve as a test for the general election that November.
Ohio’s elections chief said Wednesday he wants all voters in the swing state to be able to track their absentee ballots online, as military voters and some residents in larger counties already do. The idea was among several priorities that Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted discussed at a conference of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. Husted said he would like to see online tracking in all 88 counties in time for the 2016 primary elections. “This will further increase voters’ confidence in casting ballots by mail and in Ohio elections overall,” he told the group of bipartisan elections officials. While voters would not see every movement of their ballot through the mail, Husted said online tracking would let voters verify that their local board of elections had received their ballot.
At least 26 Hamilton County voters cast two ballots in the November election, but no extra votes were actually counted. Elections officials say they caught the double votes and are investigating why they happened. If voters intentionally cast more than one ballot, they will be referred to prosecutors for possible criminal prosecution. In most cases, though, investigators believe the votes were cast in error. They say several ballots involved elderly people who sent in absentee ballots and later cast provisional ballots at their polling place. ”The system worked the way it should,” said Tim Burke, president of the Board of Elections and leader of the county’s Democratic Party. “The appropriate number of votes were counted. Whether these particular voters acted properly, they did not impact the election because only one vote was counted.”
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling anticipated this spring in an Arizona case probably will not provide Republicans a legal reason to delay efforts to overhaul Ohio’s heavily criticized system for designing congressional districts, legal analysts say. Although the Ohio House and Senate cleared the way last month for a November vote on changing the way state legislative districts are drawn, Republican lawmakers in Columbus deferred sending voters a similar reform plan that would have created a more bipartisan way to draw up Ohio’s 16 congressional districts. While critics have complained that GOP lawmakers dropped congressional redistricting because the current U.S. House districts are so favorable to their candidates and changes are opposed by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Michael Braden, a Washington attorney who has advised Republicans on the Arizona case, said “that’s just not true.”
A smaller portion of Ohio voters were forced to cast provisional ballots in the 2014 general election, and a greater percentage of those votes were counted, a report released today by the secretary of state says. Provisional ballots made up 1.6 percent of the total ballots cast in November, a decrease from the previous gubernatorial election in 2010, when 2.7 percent had to vote provisionally. The share of provisional ballots counted increased to 90.4 percent, an increase from 88.8 percent four years earlier.