Counties across Ohio could save millions of dollars by requiring voters to use paper ballots instead of touch-screen voting machines, a Dayton Daily News analysis of a state audit has found. A recent state audit of Butler County contends that the county could save more than $4.5 million over five years by making the switch. Butler, the state’s eighth largest county, is one of 52 counties that uses touch-screen, ATM-like machines. Others include Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Darke. Following the same math used for the Butler County audit, Montgomery County possibly could save $5.5 million over five years, and Greene County nearly $1.4 million.
… The audit cites several potential positives to using paper. One is that every county in Ohio already operates a paper ballot system. A law change in 2005 allows Ohio voters to vote absentee for any reason, which is done on paper ballots and has steadily increased in popularity. Also, a 2009 legal settlement with the League of Women Voters requires polling places to have paper ballots on hand in case they are needed. This means boards of elections still have to pay to print ballots — for 10 percent of the expected turnout to use — and all counties have to have paper ballot counters, called “optical scan machines.”
A 2005 North Carolina study found that touch-screen machines are more expensive and require more maintenance. The study also found that it takes 20 touch-screen machines to do the work of one optical scan machine. That study, the Butler County audit notes, said the cost of running an election was 30-40 percent higher in counties using touch-screen machines than optical scan. Butler County’s board of elections saw a 33 percent increase in administrative costs since they started using touch-screen machines, according to the audit. Based on this, the auditor estimated Butler County could save $905,000 a year. Montgomery County uses the same system. So by using the same formula, it could save $1.1 million a year.