Delays at polls as Franklin County switches to paper pollbooks – The Columbus Dispatch

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Rick Rouan
 
| The Columbus Dispatch

Franklin County has shifted to paper pollbooks for Election Day in a move that could make the voting process slower in Ohio’s largest county.

The county has for years been using electronic pollbooks, which allow poll workers to quickly check in voters at their precinct polling location, but problems uploading the most recent data overnight prompted the Franklin County Board of Elections to make the change.

An updated electronic file containing data about who voted early was too large — a product of an unprecedented level of early voting in Franklin County — and could not be synced with the electronic poll books, said Ed Leonard, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections.

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A record number of absentee ballots and early votes were cast in Franklin County, where 53% of its 833,000 registered voters had cast ballots as of Monday evening. Of those early voters, 114,876 voters cast in-person votes and another 350,982 returned mail-in ballots.

“We can’t guarantee all the data would be there for all the most recent absentee activity,” Leonard said.

That data is needed to ensure that voters who already cast ballots would not be allowed to cast another one, he said. Data is uploaded to the electronic poll books weeks in advance, but a last-minute update always is needed to account for the most recent data.

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All Ohio counties must have a paper backup, though, and Franklin County made the decision early Tuesday morning after consulting with its vendor, KnowInk, to switch to paper.

That means poll workers will have to manually search through paper records to check identification as voters present it.

Leonard acknowledged that is likely to slow down voting on Election Day.

“It will add a little bit of time to that first step,” Leonard said. “I think as our folks get their sea legs they’ll get a comfort level. For some of them it’s what they were used to doing before poll pads.”

The electronic voting machines are separate from the county’s electronic voting equipment, which Leonard said is unaffected by the problem.

The switch to paper pollbooks initially caused a bit of confusion for poll workers who didn’t realize voters could still use the electronic voting equipment even if the electronic poll books were not being used, Leonard said.

That caused some to issue paper ballots, he said, but the board has communicated to poll workers that they still can use electronic voting equipment.

“There were some locations where I think people didn’t realize you could use the touch screen even with paper poll pads,” he said.

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@RickRouan

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