County forestalls ballot tampering

By David Skolnick

Cameras are insurance if something goes wrong, county officials say.

YOUNGSTOWN — To ensure no one tampers with voting machines and paper ballots, Mahoning County has quadrupled the number of security cameras at its board of elections.

The motion-sensor cameras were turned on for the first time Thursday.

The board office at 2801 Market St. hasn’t had a break-in before.

“We don’t want this to be the first time,” said Thomas McCabe, the board’s director.

The board has used four security cameras since 2004. It now has 16 at the office in the county’s South Side Annex building. The additional cameras cost the county $16,000.

The cameras are in the inner perimeter of the board’s office area as well as in areas where paper ballots and electronic voting machines are stored.

There also is a camera at the two entrances to the office.

The cameras operate 24 hours a day, but are active only when they detect some sort of movement, McCabe said.

The cameras are pointed away from the area where those coming to the board to vote early stand to fill out paper ballots, he said.

“It’s a good thing,” McCabe said. “Any additional security is beneficial. It alleviates the concerns of people about anything compromising the voting process.”

The election board isn’t required under state law or by the Ohio secretary of state’s office to use security cameras at its office, McCabe said.

“It’s a hotly contested election as everybody knows. And the prosecutor’s office, in conjunction with the secretary of state, said that, in cases of voter fraud and things that may go wrong at the polling place, the county will be liable,” said Anthony T. Traficanti, chairman of the county commissioners.

“Having that extra security as an insurance policy may, in fact, help the county, if, in fact, something would go wrong,” he added.

Because Ohio is considered a battleground state in the presidential balloting, election officials “are expecting Ohio to be a tight and very contentious environment where questions of voter fraud may arise,” said George J. Tablack, county administrator.

“We want to protect facts as to how the ballots were protected, so that there is evidence that can substantiate that the county was not negligent in protecting those ballots,” Tablack said.

County Commissioner David N. Ludt said he was able to prevent audio recording from being added to the new security arrangements at the elections board.

“I stopped the audio. That’s baloney,” and an infringement on constitutional rights, Ludt said. “Are they going to put cameras in your bedroom next?”.

“I think we have a fine crew” at the board of elections, Ludt said. “They do a great job, but I’m for protecting the vote, so we OK’d the cameras,” Ludt concluded.

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