Problems with elections in Ohio's most populous county are so severe that it's unlikely they can be completely fixed by November, or even by the 2008 presidential election, a report commissioned by Cuyahoga County and released Tuesday says.
A nonprofit group hired to review the county's first election with new electronic voting machines found several problems with the May 2 primary, the results of which were delayed six days because roughly 18,000 absentee ballots had to be hand counted.
The absentee ballots had been improperly formatted for new optical scan voting machines. Poll workers also had problems operating the machines, some poll workers didn't show up, vote memory cards disappeared and one precinct opened hours late. Researchers also found that the four sources used to keep track of vote totals on machines did not always add up.
"The election system in its entirety exhibits shortcomings with extremely serious consequences, especially in the event of a close election," wrote Steven Hertzberg, director of the study by the San Francisco-based Election Science Institute.
The report, part of a $341,000 review ordered by county commissioners, suggests that the county revamp poll worker training, develop a plan to ensure all electronic votes are counted in the case of a manual count and consider adding machines to avoid long lines that might scare voters away.
An official with the maker of the voting machines, North Canton-based Diebold Inc., said the report was flawed because the researchers did not properly review electronic votes in some cases.
Mark Radke, director of marketing for Diebold subsidiary Diebold Election Systems, also blamed inadequately trained poll workers, saying the totals didn't always add up because some changed memory cards without also changing the paper receipt rolls.
County elections chief Michael Vu said he could not comment on the report until Diebold and ESI worked out any issues. Then he wants ESI to present its findings to the elections board "so that we can make an informed decision to the report as a whole."
Associated Press Writer M.R. Kropko contributed to this report.
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