State May Face ‘Widespread Balking’ For Voting Machine Changes

By Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Elections officials in at least three counties have balked at a directive and other proposed changes to voting systems issued by the state's top elections official.

Fulton County announced last week it would not comply with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's recommendation that counties that currently have touch-screen voting machines to switch by the November election to an optical-scan system, in which ballots filled out by hand are tabulated by computer scanners. Currently, 57 of Ohio's 88 counties use touch-screen machines.

And officials in Union County have reached a tie vote on whether to comply with Brunner's directive for the March primary that counties using touch-screen machines must have a certain amount of paper ballots available for voters who don't want to use the machines. County commissioners have so far declined to pay to make the ballots available, setting up a potential court battle over funding the directive.

Franklin County has also expressed concern over the paper ballot directive.

Late last year, Brunner was forced to break a tie vote of the elections board to require the switch from touch-screen machines to an optical-scan system in Cuyahoga County – the state's most populated – and is now exploring ways to help the county with the $31 million it will take to change the system.

Keith Cunningham, the director of the Allen County Board of Elections and immediate past president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, predicted there would be "widespread balking" to Brunner's directive and recommendations.

"The changes being proposed by Brunner are at such a late date, and so abrupt that all of the counties that these decisions affect are struggling with them," he said. "You simply can't turn the election system on a dime."

County election officials from across the state are meeting in Columbus this week to discuss Brunner's directive and recommendations, which came as a result of a study that found that touch-screen machines are insecure and prone to hacking.

Brunner is exploring the possibility of using federal money from the Help America Vote Act to fund the change. House Speaker Jon Husted, a Kettering Republican, has suggested using the state's so-called "rainy day" fund.

Brunner said at a news conference Monday that the federal money would not cover all the changes she has directed or recommended.

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