Ohio’s Franklin County switched to paper survey books after encountering technical difficulties early on election day – a move that could slow down voting in the state’s most populous county.
Franklin County, which is largely comprised of the state capital Columbus, has been using electronic voting books for several years. Electronic records allow election workers to check in voters at their polling stations more quickly.
But after problems uploading all of their early personal voting data to their electronic check-in system, the Franklin County Board of Elections decided to switch to using the backup paper polling books early Tuesday.
On Twitter, the Franklin County Board of Elections said it had made the switch to ensure that no one could vote twice. “The Franklin County Board of Elections will use its backup paper survey books today to check in voters,” the board wrote.
The Franklin County Board of Elections will use its backup paper polling books to check in voters today,” the board wrote. That’s why we have contingency plans in place and the process is working. We chose the paper backup voting books to ensure that a voter can only cast one vote.
– Franklin Co Boe (@FranklinCoBOE) November 3, 2020
“That’s why we have contingency plans in place and the process is working. We decided to use paper backup voting books to ensure that a voter can only cast one vote.
Aaron Sellers, the public relations officer for the Franklin County Board of Elections, told Washington Newsday that officials who tried to update the electronic file containing the early voting data may have been too large to upload.
He explained that the latest data was necessary to ensure that voters who had already cast their vote could not vote again.
This morning we learned that the Franklin County Board of Elections was unable to upload all of the early personal voting data to its electronic check-in system. As a result, they are switching to paper voting books to check in voters today. 1/3
– Ohio Secretary of State Comms Team (@SecLaRoseComms) November 3, 2020
Since the officials could not guarantee that the entire voter file was on the electronic voting machines, they decided to switch to paper.
“We were having trouble uploading this information to our ballot books, so at 5:30 a.m., because we couldn’t guarantee that 100 percent of the files were downloaded, we used our backup contingency plan, i.e. our paper ballot books,” Sellers said.
He said that switching to paper records could slow down the voting “just a little bit”. However, he added that the record number of people who cast their ballots during the state’s 28-day early voting period could potentially limit the congestion at polling stations on election day.
Sellers added that more than 350,000 ballots – both personal early ballots and ballots returned by mail – have already been cast in Franklin County. The county has more than 800,000 registered voters.
“With the huge turnout we already had, the polling stations may not be as busy as they would be, so this will help,” he said.
“Our election workers are being trained on the replacement paper ballot books. I guess it could take a bit more time, but I don’t think it will affect things much,” he added.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office added on Twitter that the issue “does NOT affect the voting machines in any way and only changes the way voters check in.
“This morning, we learned that the Franklin County Board of Elections was unable to upload all early personal voting data to its electronic check-in system,” LaRose’s office twittered. “As a result, they’re switching to paper polling books today to check in voters.”
Franklin County voters: Stay calm, stay in line. #YourVoting Matters https://t.co/bZcF9ZQumV
– ACLU of Ohio (@acluohio) November 3, 2020
LaRose’s office added that he had “instructed each electoral board to have paper polling books as a contingency plan to ensure the integrity of the system so that no voter can vote twice. This will not compromise the security or accuracy of today’s vote”.
The change prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio to tweet that voters should “stay calm” and “stay in line”.