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E-Vote: Ohio Supreme Court Refuses to Interfere with Secretary of State's Directive for Paper Ballots



March 10, 2008 By

Last week, the Supreme Court of Ohio unanimously denied the Union County Commissioners' request for an order that would have prevented Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner from implementing a recent directive she issued to require county boards of elections using touch screen machines to have backup paper ballots available for voters who want them.

In response to vulnerabilities brought to light late last year through Ohio's top-to-bottom voting machine review, Project EVEREST (Evaluation and Validation of Election Related Equipment, Standards and Testing), the secretary of state's directive (2008-01) ordered all boards of elections using electronic touch-screen voting machines to provide as an alternative an optical scan paper ballot to any voter who requests it.

Brunner ordered that ballots be printed in number equal to at least 10 percent of the number of voters who voted in a previous, similar election. All other boards complied with the directive, with a number of them printing up to 40 percent, but the Union County Board of Elections split on the question of whether the follow the secretary's directive (which boards are required by law to follow according to Brunner's Office), and eventually the county commissioners took Brunner to court in two separate actions over the matter. Union County had objected to complying with the directive, stating the cost to be $86,000 but has now complied -- said Brunner's Office -- at a reported actual cost of $13,000.

The county commissioners had previously filed a lower court lawsuit that was dismissed two weeks ago. Union County Board of Elections member Robert Parrott joined the commissioners' subsequent Ohio Supreme Court action.

"Given the nature of the limitations and vulnerabilities with touch-screen voting equipment identified in the EVEREST Report, many voters would prefer the security and simplicity of a paper ballot," Brunner said. "The court's decision allows Tuesday's election to move forward as planned, giving voters the opportunity to choose a paper ballot and election officials the security of having backup paper ballots in the event of long lines or voting machine failure." Brunner added.


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