A new generation of voting machines may soon be on the way thanks to a bill signed by Gov. John Kasich, which will allow $114.5 million to be distributed among Ohio’s 88 counties. “New” generation, however, may mean taking a step back in time. Voters in 41 counties, including Butler, Montgomery and Greene, have been using direct-recording electronic voting machines, or DREs, which requires the use of a touchscreen. But now, more counties are considering using paper ballots, as no DRE machine is currently certified for use in Ohio. That leaves many counties looking at a switch to paper ballots and optical-scanning equipment to count ballots, or hybrid systems coming at more than twice the price that employ touchscreens to mark a paper ballot. “I know people think that’s going backwards,” Butler County Board of Elections Director Diane Noonan said. “But you have to look at these machines and understand that paper is not what they think it is.” Warren, Preble and Clark counties already use paper ballots.
Nationwide, 47 percent of American registered voters in November 2016 lived in jurisdictions using only optical-scan technology that requires voters to fill in bubbles, complete arrows or make other machine-readable marks on paper; 28 percent lived in DRE-only jurisdictions; another 19 percent lived in jurisdictions where both were used, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Verified Voting Foundation data.
According to Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon, DRE machines actually pose more of a security risk, leaving votes susceptible to hacking. What is most helpful when it comes to the voting process, he said, is having some sort of paper trail.