An elections vendor recently got a contract to operate electronic poll books in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County beginning this November despite major issues in another Ohio county in 2015 that caused a judge to keep the polls open later. Cuyahoga County’s elections director tells Watchdog.org, however, that his county plans a gradual ramp-up and has safeguards in place to avoid previous electronic polling pitfalls. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections agreed in February to contract with Tampa, Florida-based Tenex Software Solutions for electronic poll books beginning with the 2017 general election. The board will pay $1.7 million for the 1,450 books, with the state picking up 85 percent of the cost. This will allow the county to replace those bulky paper rosters of registered voters at each polling location as election officials phase in the software during upcoming elections prior to November. But, as Hamilton County discovered, new technology can sometimes have detrimental effects on elections.
Judge Robert Ruehlman ordered the polls to stay open an additional 90 minutes during the 2015 general election, and Ohio Secretary of State John Husted told boards of elections to embargo each county’s election results until 9 p.m. because glitches in Tenex’s electronic polling books caused long delays. The county agreed to pay poll workers an additional $50,000 collectively for the additional time worked.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections post-election report found that 2,764 voters were told by Tenex’s software they had registered too late because the company did not update a database from a special election in August. Those voters had to vote provisionally, but many polling locations were short on provisional ballots, leading to more slowdowns.
Nearly 43 percent of voting locations experienced difficulty in locating registered voters in the books on election day. Most of those problems resulted from voters who didn’t have a date of birth in the database and couldn’t be found using a normal driver’s license scan.