County election boards across Ohio are preparing to buy a new generation of voting machines, and although it’s unclear what systems will be chosen, it’s becoming more likely that tens of thousands of voters in southwest Ohio will fill out paper ballots rather than voting on touchscreens as soon as the May election. “It could be a departure for the polling locations,” said Jan Kelly, Montgomery County Board of Elections director. “They really aren’t like what we have now.” Voters in Montgomery County along with those in Butler, Darke, Greene and Miami counties and 36 others, currently use DRE machines, or direct-recording electronic voting machines that have touchscreens. But as election officials work now to get new systems online and proven before the 2020 presidential election, no DRE machine has been certified for use in Ohio, according to officials.
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.
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.
Area voters in Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Preble and Warren counties already use paper ballots, but those in others, including Miami County, could be in for a change – perhaps one they don’t prefer, said Beverly Kendall, the Miami County elections board director.