The fall general election was the first time that Scioto County voters used the new Diebold optical scan voting machines, and it led to a host of problems including ballots that were 2 millimeters too wide, jammed machines, memory cards with dead batteries and computer coding issues.
It wasn't until 5 a.m. the next day that election results were available.
Jane Saddler, deputy director of the board, said part of the issue was that with a new voting system, election workers had no idea what to expect.
“Diebold came in and supposedly did the election,” she said. “This time, we've learned a lot and we have more organization.”
According to the Ohio Secretary of State's office, 44 counties switched over to computerized voting systems for the last election in November and most counties went with a touch screen system.
Scioto County, along with Auglaize and Brown counties, got the optical scan system. However, the other two counties went with a system from Diebold's competitor, Election System and Software of Omaha, Neb. Those two counties had their results in less than two hours. All counties were required to update their voting systems because of a federal law passed after punch-card ballots came under scrutiny in the presidential election in Florida in 2000.
One of the changes made was that all the memory cards from a polling site had to be run together, not as they came in.
“It's just been little things like that,” Saddler said. There has been additional training for poll workers, and board of elections workers had three days of programming training, something they didn't have before.
Board of Elections Director Nancy Shepherd said she is confident the May 2 primary will go more smoothly this time.
“We have a new (Diebold) tech this time, and we feel a lot better about him,” she said, adding they also have a new regional and new county tech. “They seem to be on top of everything.”
She said last time the Diebold tech didn't properly program the memory cards.
She added that Dayton Legal Blanks, which makes the ballots, has corrected the sizing issue.
Julia Gearhart, board clerk/tech, said this time the memory cards, which were the main problem in the last election, will be ready to go.
“I think we'll be done by 10:30 (p.m.) this time, hopefully,” she said.
“I think we have learned more for this election from Diebold because we pushed the issue,” Saddler said. “Come November, Diebold isn't going to be here and we have to know what to do.”
MARK SHAFFER can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.