A decade ago, voters in Lucas County and elsewhere in Ohio used antiquated lever-action voting machines that broke down, created infamous "hanging chads," and otherwise put elections in doubt. On Nov. 6, voters throughout Ohio will use touch-screen machines that make voting safer and more secure. In fact, according to a recent survey, Ohio is one of the states best-prepared to catch problems with its voting system and ensure that voters will not be disfranchised because of equipment failures.
A recent report by Common Cause, Rutgers University's school of law, and the Verified Voting Foundation evaluated how good a job each state is doing to make sure every eligible voter gets to cast his or her ballot, and that all eligible votes are counted. Ohio was one of five states -- along with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, and New Hampshire -- to earn an overall rating of "good" based on a set of five best practices.
Ohio's electronic voting machines got high marks for having a paper backup. The state's contingency plans in case voting machines fail and procedures that protect the security of military and overseas votes were rated "excellent." And the way boards of elections tabulate and reconcile ballots got a grade of "generally good."
One area was singled out for improvement: post-election audits. A better system is needed, the report said, "to ensure that no ballots are lost or added as the votes are tallied and aggregated from the local up to the state level.
The report, available on the Web site CountingVotes.org, lauded Secretary of State Jon Husted's February directive to require audits on even-numbered years and after presidential primaries. It recommended that the directive be turned into election law, with the further provision to complete audits before election results are certified.
Lucas County has had its share of election problems. In 2008, 15 computerized voting machine memory cards were temporarily lost when some were buried underneath other material in the elections office and others were left in the back of a sheriff's department van. In 2011, the November vote count almost was certified before nearly 3,000 provisional ballots had been added.
Ohio voters are closely divided in what could be a razor-thin presidential election. They may be the key to victory for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.
On that day, Ohio voters also will choose a U.S. senator, 16 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and various local officials. Ballots are expected to include long lists of important local issues, such as tax requests from Toledo Public Schools, the Toledo-Lucas County Library, Imagination Station, and various local agencies.
With the stakes so high, every vote counts. It is reassuring that elections officials are prepared to count votes.