CUYAHOGA COUNTY State will probe delayed vote tally



Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell authorized the investigation.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Ohio election officials will investigate the glitches that delayed ballot counting in the state's largest county, which struggled with its first election converting from punch cards to electronic voting.
Michael Vu, director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said Friday the investigation authorized by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was expected because of the county's election problems.
The county, which includes Cleveland, continued searching for votes Friday.
"We welcome the secretary of state's office," Vu said. "We want to know what happened also. We're not going to start pointing fingers. It would be inappropriate and unethical to point fingers until we can research this issue. We do know something went wrong and we need to find out what."
Glitches
There were several glitches. The main form of voting was on Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines. Those votes are stored in several ways, including on memory cards, and some poll workers placed the cards in the wrong storage bags.
Vu said most misplaced cards were eventually located. Some memory cards as of Friday had not been found, Vu said, but their totals were recovered from a backup memory on the touch-screen machines.
The touch-screen totals -- 200,062 or 20 percent of registered voters in the county -- were not completed until late Thursday night.
On Friday, thousands of paper ballots that should have been read by optical scan machines as an alternative to touch-screen voting were still being counted by hand because the Diebold scanners could not reliably read those ballots. A Diebold spokesman said the problem was with the ballots, not the scanners, but Cuyahoga County said it placed its order for paper ballots based on Diebold specifications.
On election day, some polling places failed to open on time or were late setting up electronic voting machines. Some poll workers did not show up at a Cleveland polling location. Replacement workers finally opened it about 1 p.m. and a judge ordered it to remain open for a few hours after its scheduled closing time.
"It is standard practice for the secretary of state's office to demand a full report from a board of elections when there is an obvious breakdown in procedure," James Lee, a spokesman for Blackwell, said Friday.
Observing the count
Lee said the office had staff at the board offices in Cleveland on Friday observing the hand count of paper ballots. Vu estimated that the counting of about 18,000 paper ballots was about 80 percent complete and the counting could last through the weekend if necessary.
Diebold Election Systems spokesman David Bear said Diebold has a team of technicians who were available Tuesday to help Cuyahoga County with any problems that occurred, but that some problems were out of their control.
"We probably had about 200 people helping out in an effort to help lessen the burden. We worked with them. We assisted them, but they run their election," Bear said.
Bear said Cuyahoga County's performance should improve in the November election.
"I believe the counties who ran electronic voting for first time now will feel more comfortable in November. The process of running elections hasn't changed a lot," he said.

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