Changes coming to Montgomery Co. voting system

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Montgomery County Board of Elections does not expect to make policy changes following uncounted votes in a neighboring county, but it does plan to make sweeping changes to its voting system.

The Ohio Secretary of State called for an emergency meeting Friday in response to election issues in Miami County, where officials discovered more than 6,000 uncounted votes.

READ MORE: Miami Co. elections director fired after 6,000 votes go uncounted

The Montgomery County Board of Elections was required to re-certify five races overlapping both jurisdictions. The precautionary measure did not change any race outcomes and board director Jan Kelly said the county uses a system of checks and balances to avoid similar errors.

“We always check, double-check, triple-check all of our results and our counts every night,” Kelly said. “So we would not have made that mistake.”

During Friday’s meeting, the board also approved a replacement system for the county’s decade-old voting system.

“This is our legacy stamp,” Rhine McLin, the Board of Elections chairperson said of the board’s efforts to replace outdated machines and counting methods.

It took a five year research and selection process to choose a new vendor. In September, voters tested the county’s top three choices during a mock election. Kelly said the public overwhelmingly favored tangible, paper ballots over an all-digital system.

Weighing community input and financial feasibility, Kelly and deputy director Steve Harsman recommended a system from Election Systems and Software (ES&S) Friday. The directors cited the company’s longstanding relationship with the county, as well as the system’s lower price.

Over ten years, it will cost almost $6.6 million, which is $2 million less than an offer from another contender and almost half the price of an all-digital system.

Following questions and answers, the board unanimously approved the ES&S voting system. It uses paper ballots and gives voters the option of filling them out by hand or using a machine.

The deal will also include electronic poll books and four new, high-speed scanners for counting ballots.

“It will certainly be easier for precinct election officials to set up the voting locations,” Kelly said. “And it’ll just be a smoother, less expensive process for the voters of Montgomery County.”

The Board of Elections expects voters will be able to use the new machines by the November 2019 election, with the system fully operational by the 2020 presidential election.

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