Ohio election audits find near-perfect count

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Ohio election audits find near-perfect count

  • Story Highlights
  • Local counties found near-perfect accuracy in vote counts when they did an audit of the November results
  • Post-election audits in Ohio started after problems with long lines and disputed results in 2004

Ohio’s mandatory post-election audit shows electronic voting machines and paper ballot optical scan equipment worked well and accurately recorded nearly all votes, according to Josh Eck, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Husted’s office is still awaiting audit results from about 20 of the state’s 88 counties, but those which have completed audits found no problems with electronic touch screen votes and only a handful with paper ballots, Eck said.

In five Dayton-area counties’ vote audits matched final results from the Nov. 8 election 100 percent; Montgomery, Champaign, Darke, Greene and Miami counties.

“Everything’s right on the money,” said Llyn McCoy, deputy director of the Greene County Board of Elections.

Four counties found a few problems, all with paper ballots. Warren County had five votes change, Clark had three, Butler had two and Preble had one vote change. All were on paper ballots - either optical scan ballots cast at the polls or absentee ballots.

In an election year filled with concern over the integrity of the nation’s voting systems, Ohio’s vote audit left local and state officials confident that the electronic touch screen and optical ballot scanning systems used in the state accurately counted votes.

”When you see bipartisan audits taking place and coming back with this kind of success I hope it reassures voters that we are doing it the right way in Ohio,” Husted said.

Montgomery County Board of Elections clerks Priscilla Ritchie and Joshua Pettis reconcile the voter-verified paper record of votes with what electronic touch screen voting machines recorded. It is part of Ohio’s mandated audit of a sampling of the Nov. 8 vote. Montgomery County’s audit found 100 percent of audited ballots matched the certified election results. LYNN HULSEY/STAFF Staff Writer

“I believe the integrity of the election system in Clark County is pretty good,” said Board Director Jason Baker. “From the system I know here in Clark County there is no way to hack the system. There is no way to vote twice.”

Ohio’s post-election audits began after the state reached a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Ohio after the 2004 presidential election, which was marred by long lines and other problems that drew national attention. The settlement required the audits be done in even years after the general election.

“It’s sad but sometimes it requires legal action to get these kinds of changes,” said Carrie Davis, league executive director. “Having these safety mechanisms in place is a comfort because voters can be confident that that vote they cast is accurately recorded and we’ve got procedures in place that verify it.”

The audits are different from a recount, which is when the results of a race are verified by recounting all the votes. In Ohio’s post-election audits each board of election verifies the votes in three races by double-checking five percent of all ballots cast. This year the audit was of the presidential race, one Ohio Supreme Court race and one county-wide race of each board’s choosing.

Boards of election hand count paper ballots and match the electronic touch screen voting machine’s verified voter paper record with the machine’s computer record to make sure the votes match up.

Betty Prosser and Lois Grashel count ballots by hand during the election audit Thursday at the Clark County Board of Elections. Bill Lackey/Staff Staff Writer

Not all states in the country do post-election audits, and some that do them don’t necessarily verify votes. Elections expert David J. Becker said it sounds like Ohio has “a pretty solid audit” and he believes post-election audits should be routine in all states.

“It’s a layer of protection against any kind of criticism,” said Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, “This is why audits are a good thing.”

Butler, Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Darke counties all use electronic touch screen voting machines but paper ballots are used for absentee, provisional and the few voters who insist on using paper at the polling place. Preble, Clark, Champaign and Warren counties all use paper ballots that are counted using optical scan machines.

“We were 100 percent accurate on our electronic voting,” said Jocelyn Bucaro, deputy director of the Butler County Board of Elections. “I continue to believe voters should be confident in electronic voting.”

Eck said the few paper ballot votes that changed in the audit were typically because the voter didn’t mark the oval on the ballot dark enough for optical scanners to see or didn’t full mark it - both issues that can be detected in the audit hand count.

Final official election results are updated in each county after audits are completed.

Donald Trump carried Ohio by 8.1 percent. Nationally Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, but Trump won the majority of the votes in enough states to win the most electoral votes. On Monday the Electoral College will meet to formally vote and the expectation is Trump will win.

Failed Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein pushed for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania - all states Clinton narrowly lost - but opponents pushed back and stopped the recounts in all but Wisconsin. Wisconsin completed its recount, finding that both Clinton and Trump gained votes but Trump still won. The recount found Trump’s margin over Clinton grew by an additional 131 votes, said Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

“Completing this recount was a challenge, but the real winners are the voters,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission Chair Mark Thomsen. “Based on the recount, they can have confidence that Wisconsin’s election results accurately reflect the will of the people, regardless of whether they are counted by hand or by machine.”

LOCAL COUNTY ELECTION AUDITS

How accurate was official vote count?

Butler County - 2 votes changed

Clark County - 3 votes changed

Champaign County - 100%

Darke County - 100% accurate

Greene County - 100% accurate

Miami County - 100% accurate

Montgomery County - 100% accurate

Preble County - 1 vote changed

Warren County - 5 votes changed

Source: county boards of election

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