If Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell doesn't get off the dime, the Buckeye State is going to go into the 2004 presidential election without an adequate test of alternatives to the now-despised punch-card ballots.
Mr. Blackwell had committed himself to the goal of modern-age ballots by the primary election next March. That made sense because it would give both voters and election officials a dress rehearsal on whatever type of system is selected. Now he is backing away from that position.
Although Lucas County and others are considering and planning to use a touch-screen voting system, Mr. Blackwell was quoted recently as saying: “I would choose the optical scan.” Michigan this month decided to purchase optical-scanning ballot systems for the entire state. This may have swayed Mr. Blackwell, but in truth he has been so indecisive that it is hard to tell what he really thinks.
The secretary cannot blame anyone but his own party's representatives in Congress and the General Assembly for the long delays that have consumed valuable time and put the states in a time bind. Plainly, punch-card voting has had its day. No Ohioan should want this state to be put into a Florida-type snafu in case of a close election in 2004. Florida and California might survive bungled elections, election-day miscues, and carnival-like recalls, but if they happened here in supposedly safe and solid Ohio, snickers would be heard from coast to coast.
This state should not go into the November, 2004, election without reforming its voting procedures. We believe the objections raised to the touch-screen method of voting are both spurious and self-serving. Mr. Blackwell should long before now have boned up on election law and systems to the extent where he could move decisively on this issue or at least not stand in the way of someone else making the decision.
If the state were to choose the optical-scan method, which is not the cutting-edge of technology, it is highly likely that yet another expensive update will be needed in the future. Whether because of election foul-ups in connection with an inadequately tested system or because of costly upgrading later on, the Republican Party, both at the state and national levels, will have a lot of explaining to do to an electorate that by then may not be in the mood to listen to excuses.