March 17, 2008 By News Report
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner last week announced the statewide results of ballot types cast by voters for the state's March primary. Ohio voters took ample advantage of their freedom to vote early, setting a record last week by casting 503,601 absentee ballots.
Across the state, reports of "back-up" paper ballots saved the day for many boards of elections using touch-screen machines as their primary election system, according to a release from Brunner's office. Nearly 13,000 voters at their polling location requested or needed to vote by using a paper ballot for the March 4 election either by choice or due to unforeseen circumstances with touch-screen voting machines or the lack of power.
Pre-election media polls touted a desire of Democrats at 54 percent and Republicans at 38 percent in favor of selecting a paper ballot if offered one. An accurate assessment of Ohioans' preferences for paper ballots in those 53 touch-screen counties is difficult to obtain for the March 4 primary, said the release. Data collection was affected by the requests of boards that poll workers not be required to ask each voter his or her choice of ballot and by many boards not choosing to advertise at polling places paper ballots' availability. In other counties, there is some evidence that poll workers may have provided provisional ballots instead of regular paper ballots to voters. This will be ascertained with data collected at the official count in the next two weeks.
Backup paper ballots have been considered to be an elections "best practice" for jurisdictions using touch-screen machines, and they proved to be essential in emergency situations to keep Ohioans voting:
"We worked extensively with our boards of election officials to be ready for this primary election, with the complexities of multiple ballots, voter crossovers, record turnout and unexpected weather calamities," said Brunner. "I did not want to see any county left in a position of turning voters away. We were prepared, and the great work of our state's elections officials proved it," said Brunner.