A new report on the Election Day problems in Hamilton County called “unacceptable” the number of glitches that caused confusion, long lines and delays throughout the day and led to a court order that mandated that the polls stay open an additional 90 minutes.
Election officials say more training and poll workers are needed to avoid a repeat in next year’s elections.
Problems with the county’s new e-poll books started before the polling places opened at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 3, the report said.
Roughly 35 percent of the polling places had trouble setting up the new equipment, 65 percent reported problems with the printers and routers not being connected and 43 percent had difficulty locating voters in the books because the database lacked dates of birth for some 8,459 registered voters, according to a 15-page report from the Hamilton County Board of Elections that was released Friday.
“The problems encountered by far too many voters are simply unacceptable. 83.8 percent of polling locations reported some type of problem related to e-poll book implementation,” the report said.
E-poll books are tablets or laptops that replace alphabetized paper lists of registered voters in each precinct. They’re supposed to make voter check-in quicker and more error free and allow workers to look up voters across the county, not just in the precinct. The state appropriated $13 million for counties to purchase e-poll books, with the state footing 85 percent of the cost and counties covering the rest.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said 42 of Ohio’s 88 counties already use e-poll books and more counties may start using them in next year’s presidential primary and general elections.
Husted said the report from Hamilton County can help other counties avoid similar pitfalls and mistakes.
“The Hamilton County experience is one everyone should learn from. I mean there are going to be some growing pains but it’s not acceptable that we had that widespread of a problem,” he said.
The county elections officials reported that they had carefully vetted and selected a vendor; inventoried and tested thousands of pieces of equipment; double-checked wireless signals at 364 polling locations; hired 50 extra troubleshooters and beefed up the help desk staff; and delivered paper poll books as a back up to each location.
But on Election Day, it quickly became apparent that training was insufficient, connections weren’t reliable and a key software patch hadn’t been made. Workers had trouble setting up the e-books from the get-go and training for the Precinct Election Officials was insufficient, according to the report.
Hamilton County told Husted that for the upcoming elections, it needs to: hire more poll workers, refine training, have more troubleshooters on hand, allot more time for setting up the books, and resolve the technical issues with connectivity between routers and printers.
Montgomery County Board of Elections has been using e-poll books since 2011 and voter check-in time dropped from a few minutes to 30 seconds on average, Husted said.
He added that statewide elections require 40,000 poll workers.
“Be part of the solution. Make a day for democracy. Call your the board of elections and be a poll worker,” Husted said. “It’s important that we get the right people and we get them trained.”