MIAMI COUNTY — No more hanging chads and no more frustrating screens and cards.
Miami County Board of Elections staff are making the rounds to help voters acclimate to the county’s new paper ballot system.
The Clear Ballot system replaced the touch screens with physical paper ballots, which features fill-in bubbles much like a school test or lottery ticket form. The ballot also includes a write-in blank if applicable.
Director Laura Bruns said the positives of the new Clear Ballot system is it’s user-friendly and simple, voters will have a physical ballot to submit and it was cost effective with 100 percent funding from the state to purchase the new system for the county.
“It’s so simple an elementary student would know how it works,” Bruns said.
Once the voter has made their selections, the ballot is placed into a scanning machine. Bruns said folders will be available for more confidentiality from the poll booths to the scanner machine.
The scanner will then prompt the voter if there are errors such as blank selections, double votes for one issue or unclear selections. If the voter chooses to correct the errors, the scanner will kick back the ballot for correction or the voter can have a poll worker issue a new ballot to start over. If the voter is satisfied with their ballot, the machine collects the paper ballot, which is then stored in a locked box.
On Wednesday, Director Bruns and Deputy Director Ian Ridgeway walked patrons of the Piqua Public Library through the new voting process.
Michelle Kuehne, a tech assistant at the Piqua Public Library, stopped in to try the new way of voting on Wednesday.
“Seems easy. It’s a lot of paper — a lot of paper,” said Kuehne, who said she was fine with the old way of voting, but said the new way was a lot easier.
Tess Graves, a cateloguer at the library, also said the new system was easy to use.
“It’s very easy. It seems so simple,” said Graves, who said she was glad she stopped in to test the new system prior to the next election.
“I would have been shocked if I not heard about it,” Graves said.
Voting demonstrations also will be available during the county’s mock election from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 29 at the board of elections office and at the Tipp City Library from 1-4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9. Other demonstrations are being planned for the month of September.
Bruns said the touch screen system was aging and she said people shared with her that it became harder to “turn pages” and be user-friendly.
Voters will still have their voter registration verified on an iPad screen and signature at the polls. Each poll location will have handicapped accessible voting options for hearing impaired, large print ballots and other accomodations if needed.
Ridgeway said the scanner system automatically reads selections and determines if the selection is blank, readable or questionable and alerts the voter at the time it is cast to allow for corrections.
Ridgeway said he’s tested the machine’s scanners to detect the selections with “X’s, check marks, lines through it” and the scanner has responded accordingly. Ridgeway also said setting up the ballot for voters was easier and faster than the former procedure.
Bruns said polling locations will benefit at the end of an election with only scanners to pack up and bags of ballots to take to the board office.
“They won’t have to tear down all those machines, so it should be much faster,” she said.
Board of elections members had battled over the Clear Ballot paper system or a hybrid electronic ballot system, which the voter would select their choices and then the machine would print out a completed ballot. The board selected the Clear Ballot system, which cost $862,225 compared to the $1.8 million hybrid system. The cost of the Clear Ballot system was paid for entirely by state funds.
At the Aug. 29 mock election, to be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Secretary of State Frank LaRose plans to be in attendance during the tabulation at 1 p.m.
The Miami County Board of Elections has been on state oversight for months following last November’s election in which a 6,288-vote discrepancy was found by the Secretary of State’s Office. The board staff had failed to count the early voting ballots, but once they were factored in, it did not change the outcome of any race or issue. The former board of elections director was fired before Bruns was hired last April. Bruns previously held a director position at the Mercer County Board of Elections where she started as a clerk in 2008. She is a graduate of the Ohio Association of Election Officials education program and was the Republican Election Official of the Year in 2016.