The vote is in, and paper wins

LISBON — For the sake of the state and the nation, Columbiana County elections board member David Johnson hopes they are never forced to discard their paper ballot voting system, which he praised as a far superior in preventing election fraud than electronic voting.

“I think I would be opposed to ever wanting to do away with paper ballots,” he said during last week’s board meeting. “I like paper ballots because you can always do a hand count if necessary.”

Johnson was speaking about the concern recently raised about computer hackers altering election results, which board director Adam Booth said is nearly impossible with the optical scan/paper ballot system used by the county for the past 10 years.

Under the system, voters use pens to fill in ovals on paper ballots, which are then fed into an optical scanner machine at each polling place to be recorded. The results are downloaded into a memory card that is delivered to the elections board by poll workers and plugged into the central machine used to tabulate the results.

Booth said none of the machines are hooked into the internet, nor can the results be accessed through WiFi. If there ever was a question about the results, the board could simply take out the paper ballots and count the votes by hand.

Johnson noted other counties and states use electronic voting systems that could be compromised and he would oppose any effort to force the county to switch.

The issue came up because the board was required by the Ohio secretary of state to check the accuracy of its voting system by hand counting 5 percent of the results from the Nov. 8 election. Booth said they chose several precincts where the vote total equaled 5 percent and counted the presidential, state supreme court and state representative races.

Approximately 2,355 votes were counted by hand and compared to the totals as tabulated by the optical scan system, and Booth said it matched up, except for one ballot, where the voter put a check mark next to the oval instead of filling in the oval.

“We’re happy to say we had an efficiency rating of 99.9992 percent, and the reason we didn’t have a perfect score is because someone did not follow instructions,” he said.

In other news, Jim Beardsley’s time as a board member will be coming to an end in February, when his second term as one of the two Republican representatives will expire. Beardsley served two four-year terms, and county GOP rules prohibit anyone other than the party chairman from serving more than two consecutive terms.

“You’ve done a great job, Jim, and I thank you,” said Johnson, Republican Party chairman and the other GOP representative.

The Democratic representative whose term is up in February is Larry Bowersock, but the Democrats do not have term limits. The other Democratic representative on the board is Patty Colian.