Area residents have a right to problem-free elections

Last month, the Washington Post carried an article headlined, "Major problems at polls feared," and not surprisingly reference was made to the 2004 presidential election and this year's primary in Ohio.
"In 2004, some Democrats alleged widespread voting irregularities in Ohio, including questionable vote-counting and problems with machines in Democratic-leaning precincts. Nonpartisan election experts have said the problems were not so severe to call President Bush's victory, by about 119,000 votes, into question," the Post reported.
"This year, there are debates over standards for keeping voter registration rolls up to date; for the handling of 'provisional ballots' used by people who do not show up on those rolls but believe they are legally qualified to vote; and for assuring the validity of electronic vote counts through the use of paper trails for all electronic machines. State legislation requiring state or federal identification for all voters has been challenged in courts," the paper noted.
As for the May primary, the newspaper focused on Cuyahoga County, saying results were delayed for nearly a week "when thousands of absentee ballots were incorrectly formatted for electronic scanners and had to be counted by hand."
Fortunately, the Post's story looked at what was happening nationwide, and thus the Mahoning Valley escaped scrutiny.
As we noted in an editorial May 7, residents in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties went to bed election night without knowing all the results.
"That's because the press didn't get the complete, but unofficial, vote totals past midnight," we wrote.
"We have improvements to make, but we aren't alone in this," said Thomas McCabe, Mahoning County elections board director.
Presidential, primary elections
The problems that plagued the elections boards in the three counties not only added to the voter discontent that was triggered by the 2004 presidential election, but raised concerns about whether elections operations would be ready for the general election.
That election is a week away -- and local boards have had all summer to prepare for it.
In a front page story Monday, Mahoning County officials pledged there would be no glitches this election because all the problems that plagued the May 2 primary have been addressed.
Residents have a right to expect a trouble-free election in all three counties. It is not an unreasonable expectation -- given that we published several editorials warning boards of potential problems with the large voter turnout expected due to the races for governor, U.S. senator and other statewide contests and issues.
We said that excuses, such as the lack of proper training for poll workers, the failure to properly program the electronic voting system and the miscalculation with regard to absentee balloting, would not be accepted.
We can see no reason why the Nov. 7 election can't be carried out without a glitch -- with the complete, but unofficial, results being made public at a reasonable time. Anything less and heads will have to roll.

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