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Human and computer errors caused glitches in the November 2004 elections.



Published: Sat, February 26, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Human and computer errors caused glitches in the November 2004 elections.

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Board of Elections needs to improve its electronic voting machines and better educate its employees and those casting ballots, according to a report issued by the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown.

The recently released report reviews the November 2004 general election process. League members say this report is a bit more critical than others in the past.

The league report said some precinct workers didn't understand certain election rules. Some workers allowed voters to wear campaign shirts and buttons into the polling places, and others didn't understand the roles of party challengers.

Also, long lines at certain precincts led some voters to leave before casting ballots, the report states.

One of the report's top recommendations is to improve the calibration of the voting machines. In the November election, about 25 to 30 voting machines in the county had to be recalibrated because some votes for a candidate were being counted for that candidate's opponent.

Election officials say there are a number of reasons for that problem, including static electricity.

"Every election we have calibration issues," said Thomas McCabe, the election board's deputy director. "In this election, we had more machines and more voters. Because of that, the issue came to the forefront, but we have this problem in every election."

One league member in Boardman said she voted for Democrat John Kerry, but the vote went to President Bush, the report states. The member noticed the error, and had to change it stating "it wasn't easy," to change the vote. But her vote for Kerry was registered.

Mark Munroe, the election board's chairman, and McCabe said that happened in some voting precincts because of the calibration problem. But, they said, before any votes are officially cast, the machines show voters a review screen to make sure their selections are correct.

"That allows you to correct any mistakes made," McCabe said.

Thirteen league members participated in the survey at polling locations in Youngstown, Boardman, Poland township and village, and Canfield.

Mahoning County

The November 2004 election in Mahoning County had its problems, a combination of human and computer errors. Some machines malfunctioned, but a majority of the issues were made by workers, election officials say.

Some precinct workers didn't close the voting machines properly leading to nonsensical voting totals with some races showing votes of negative 25 million for candidates, election officials say. But election officials spotted those problems when the results and voting machines arrived at the elections board, and they were corrected.

Because of the vote total problems in 16 of the county's 312 precincts, the election results weren't finalized until 1:30 a.m. the following day.

Despite the delay, Mahoning election officials say the county was among very few in the state to have no changes when recounts were conducted in the state after the November 2004 election.

Mahoning is among a handful of counties in Ohio with electronic voting. Mahoning went to an electronic system in 2002 after about 18 years with a paper ballot/optical scanner system. At the time, the state was in the process of moving all 88 counties in Ohio to an electronic system.

But now the state is requiring all counties move to a paper ballot/optical scanner system by next year because of concerns that electronic voting doesn't have a paper audit trail.

Mahoning election officials are seeking a waiver from the Ohio General Assembly because the technology to have a paper trail for electronic voting systems doesn't exist.




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