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High use of paper ballot slows count

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Due to the unexpectedly high use of paper ballots in Tuesday’s election and the high number of absentee voters, a complete Greene County tally was not available on Wednesday morning in time for the publication of the News. The precinct-by-precinct breakdown of Yellow Springs voting was consequently also not available, according to villager Don Holllister, a member of the Greene County Board of Elections. That breakdown will be published in next week’s paper.

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, the absentee ballots had been counted but the count of paper ballots cast on election day had just begun, according to Hollister, who predicted the complete count would finish later in the day.

About 21,000 Greene County voters cast their votes early with absentee ballots, according to Hollister, who roughly estimated that number of absentee ballots as more than twice the number cast in the 2004 presidential election. It took election board workers, who began early Election Day morning, about 20 hours to count all of the absentee votes, he said.

And while about 100 Greene County voters took advantage of paper ballots on election day in the 2008 primary, about 26,000 voters did so in Tuesday’s election, according to Hollister.

“The awareness of having paper ballots was much higher than last time,” said Jeff Insleee, poll worker for precinct 443 at the Presbyterian Church in Yellow Springs. “Voters enjoyed having the choice.”

Inslee estimated that about 60 percent of voters used the electronic touchscreen machines in his precinct, while about 40 percent chose paper ballots. New to the voting process this time were clear signs in precincts indicating that paper ballots were available. The paper ballots were made available in response to directives from Ohio’s Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who had expressed public concerns about the reliability of electronic machines, many of which had malfunctioned during the 2004 presidential election.

While lines of voters were long in the early morning at both local polling places, the Bryan Center and the Presbyterian Church, the number of voters was manageable throughout the day, according to Inslee.

“Things went extremely smoothly,” he said.

However, counting all those paper ballots wasn’t quite so smooth, Hollister said. The Board of Elections put out a call for help to start counting the paper ballots at midnight Tuesday night, and about 30 people throughout the night did so, an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. The count of paper ballots cast on election day had to wait until all of the votes cast on touchscreen machines had been counted, he said, since election workers couldn’t use the scanners needed to count paper ballots at the same time they were downloading memory cards from the touchscreen machines.

About 1 percent of paper ballots cast on election day offered election workers more challenges because voters had filled them out inaccurately, casting their votes with checkmarks or X’s rather than filling in the circles, according to Hollister. In those cases, a Republican and a Democrat election board worker redid the ballots so that they could be counted by the scanner.

Due to the possibilities for potential mistakes in the hands-on counting of paper ballots, “I would argue that paper ballots are less secure than software,” Hollister said on Wednesday morning.

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