COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio voters concerned about touch-screen electronic voting must have the option of using a backup paper ballot during the November election, as they did for March's presidential primary, the state's top election official said Friday.
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner ordered the counties with the touch-screen voting systems to have enough for a quarter residents who voted in 2004 to opt for the printed ballots. She issued a similar order during the primary, calling for enough paper ballots for 10 percent of voters.
"On Nov. 4, 2008, the eyes of the nation will once again be on Ohio," Brunner told county election officials across the state in ordering the option.
Ohio was pivotal in 2004, giving President Bush the electoral votes he needed to win the election against Democrat John Kerry. No Republican has been elected president without winning Ohio and just two Democrats have done so since 1900.
The paper-ballot option, in addition to addressing security concerns of some voters, is expected to help if voting machines fail or voters find long lines, Brunner said.
She ordered the 53 counties that have touch-screen electronic voting machines to have available enough paper ballots for up to 25 percent of a precinct's 2004 turnout. The federal government is expected to pay for the paper-ballot option.
Ohio printed 1.02 million backup paper ballots for the March primary and 14,484 or 1.4 percent were used.
Poll workers will have the option of asking if a voter wants a paper ballot but won't be required to ask. In addition, Brunner said her office would make available posters to be displayed at polling places indicating the availability of paper ballots.
Paper ballots, in which voters fill in an oval to make a selection, must be counted in a centralized elections board location, not at the polling place, Brunner said.
In suburban Cleveland, the Lake County turnout in March was 75,195, including 53 voters who requested paper ballots. The county had 4,500 paper ballots available.
Another 20 paper ballots were cast in Lake County because of power outage problems, according to board deputy director Scott Daisher.