Election Security

The Wayne County Board of Elections is tasked with administering secure, fair and transparent election activities in Wayne County, Ohio.  We take Election Security seriously and are continually working to educate, prepare and proactively respond to the latest trends and activities to ensure safety and accuracy on a daily basis.

 

May 13, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

By BOBBY WARREN Staff Writer Published: May 9, 2015 4:00AM

WOOSTER — Online voter registration: It makes the process easier for those with Internet access, will save elections workers some time and money and it won’t cost local officials any more money. Count the Wayne County commissioners in.

Scott Wiggam, Jim Carmichael and Ann Obrecht met with Josette Burns of the Secretary of State’s Office, along with the county’s top elections officials, Peter James and Julie Leathers, to discuss the topic Monday.

Secretary of State Jon Husted is trying to build momentum with the issue to have state legislators approve of the measure, so he is asking for support from county commissioners, which is why Burns was in Wayne County.

The commissioners met with Burns previously to hear more about the issue, and they were initially skeptical, primarily because they did not know what it would cost county taxpayers.

Burns reported back there would be no local cost to implementing online voter registration, and it might even save the county money.

Husted’s office estimated the Wayne County Board of Elections will save between 50 cents and $1 per registration. For the registration forms it processed from 2011-2014, it would have amounted to $20,100-$40,200.

James, though, said he did not think the county’s savings would be a lot because his office does not hire additional people to handle registrations.

“It’s an everyday thing,” Leathers said. “Some days there are 10; some days there are two.”

Obrecht was concerned about how the state would verify voters.

Residents would register through the Secretary of State’s website and have to enter specific information like name, address, last four digits of their Social Security number and driver’s license or state identification card number.

If all of the fields are not filled in or there are discrepancies, then the applicant will be notified to register in-person at the local board of elections office or to mail in an application.

The driver’s license/state ID card information is required in order to obtain a copy of the person’s signature. Poll books used in precincts contain voters’ signatures for verification.

Elections offices already receive change of address information electronically from the Secretary of State’s office, James said. It obtains copies of voters’ signatures from driver’s licenses and state ID cards with the address changes. He anticipates if online registration is approved by the Legislature, then it will be a similar process. “It will make it easier, not harder,” James said, adding it also provided customer service to residents by making the process easier.

“So, it’s a no-brainer?” Carmichael asked.

“I can’t see any reason” not to do it, James said.

If online voter registration does become a reality, Burns said people will still be able to go into a board of elections office and register in person. “We’re not eliminating or taking away any options,” she said.

Though Husted and the commissioners support the concept, state legislators will still need to give their approval.

State Rep. Ron Amstutz, a Wooster Republican, said he spoke with Husted earlier this year about online registration, but he is not on board with it right now.

“I’m not opposing it, … but we need to be careful when we go forward with these kinds of things,” Amstutz said. He also wants to consult with board of elections officials.

While Amstutz is approaching this with caution, state Sen. Frank LaRose, a Copley Republican, is the one who introduced the bill during the last General Assembly. It did not go anywhere, so he introduced it again. It has been referred to the Government Oversight Committee, but it has not been scheduled for a hearing.

“Most people are initially hesitant,” LaRose said. However, they tend to become more favorable when they understand the safeguards in the law, which includes the mandatory data regarding the driver’s license or state ID number. By accessing the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database, not only will the signature be available, but also citizenship status and address information.

“A lot of people worry about hackers,” LaRose said, probably because of the government’s track record, like the Affordable Care Act rollout. “This is a lot different. We are not plowing new ground. Arizona did it with great success” more than a decade ago.

LaRose said he has been focused on talking to his Senate colleagues about the bill, adding he needs to schedule some time to speak with Amstutz about the issue. He is lobbying Senate President Keith Faber to get a hearing scheduled for the bill.

Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or bwarren@the-daily-record.com. He is @BobbyWarrenTDR on Twitter.

April 22, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

By BOBBY WARREN Staff Writer Published: April 22, 2015 4:00AM

WOOSTER — Uncle Sam might want you, but so, too, do Peter James and Julie Leathers, Wayne County’s top election officials, who are recruiting new poll workers.

Right now, the office is in a good position with its poll workers, said James, the director of the board. For the May election, there will be 52 polling locations in the county. The election is county-wide because of a Wayne County Children Services 0.2-mill renewal levy.

The Board of Elections has been continually reducing the amount of precincts. There were once more than 100; the number has dropped to 67. Board President Earl Kerr said the combining of some precincts is why there will be only 52 locations opened for the May 5 election.

Leathers, the board’s deputy director, said the office will send out poll worker recruitment cards. The staff is trying to be proactive ahead of the presidential primary in 2016.

While there are enough workers now, if Ohio’s primary is in March, then a lot of poll workers might still be vacationing in Florida, Leathers said, which is prompting the recruitment efforts.

Kerr said one of the messages from the winter conference of Ohio election officials is how the Buckeye State is going to be the epicenter of voting. The thought is there will be “lots more registered voters,” he added.

The board also noted because Republican John Kasich won the governor’s race over Ed FitzGerald in 2014 and carried every precinct in Wayne County, all of the polling location managers will come from the Republican Party.

The party of the precinct manager, formerly known as a presiding judge, is determined by which gubernatorial candidate from the two major parties receives the most votes. When Ted Strickland won in 2006, he carried 62 of the then-97 precincts, and he won 23 of 24 in Wooster.

Each precinct requires four workers, two Democrats and two Republicans. The location oversees the workers and operations in a precinct, including picking up the supplies and returning them, along with the vote tallies, on election night. The workers at the poll serve different functions.

One greets people at the door and checks they have proper identification. Another has the voters place their signatures in the poll book. Another lists the voters, along with their addresses, in chronological order in another book. The fourth worker encodes the voter access cards.

Because 2016 is a presidential election, all poll workers will have to go through training. Poll workers are paid for their time spent training and earn about $100 for their work on the day of the election.

For more information about serving as a poll worker, call 330-287-5480.

Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or bwarren@the-daily-record.com. He is @BobbyWarrenTDR on Twitter.

April 20, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

COLUMBUS – Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today released the following statement announcing a settlement agreement with the Ohio Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other plaintiffs on their challenge to the state’s scheduled voting hours:

“One of my primary goals is to ensure uniformity in Ohio elections so that every voter in this state is treated equally and fairly. Today we are preserving that uniformity for all Ohio voters while maintaining ample opportunity to cast a ballot and participate in the democratic process.”

“This agreement is a victory for Ohio voters. With the issues that accompany the 2016 presidential election drawing nearer it is important that we resolve these lingering questions now. Ohio has been and will remain a state where it is easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

The elimination of the overlap week where individuals could register to vote and cast their ballot on the same day was maintained by the agreement as it was originally enacted by the 130th General Assembly through Senate Bill 238. The plaintiffs also agreed to drop any claim to attorneys’ fees or damages.

The settlement, which will dismiss the suit with prejudice, was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio’s Eastern Division today, marking the end of litigation in the Ohio NAACP v. Husted (Case No. 2:14-CV-404).

The primary election next month will not be impacted as the hours set by the settlement agreement will not go into effect until after the May 2015 election.

Additional Resources:
Voting hours for elections after the May 2015 Primary and Special Election
Voting hours for the May 2015 Primary and Special Election as set by Directive 2014-17

April 13, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

WOOSTER — Wayne County elections officials want to switch from paper poll books to electronic poll books, but they are expensive, the board president said.

Board of Elections members and staff have been listening to presentations from a variety of vendors, and all three county commissioners joined them Thursday for one with Mark Radke of ES&S.

“They’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but they are expensive,” President Earl Kerr said.

Radke did not have a firm figure because the number of precincts in Wayne County has been reduced, but going to the ePoll books will likely be more than $100,000, plus ongoing license fees.

Electronic poll books are tablet computers precinct workers use to validate voters and collect signatures. A number of Ohio counties use the ES&S ePoll book, including Richland, which was the first.

Radke said his company’s model also can encode cards used in the touch-screen voting terminals Wayne County uses. This can help eliminate voters receiving the wrong ballot style on the computer cards.

There are a number of books printed for each precinct. The poll book contains every registered voter, along with personal information and a copy of each voter’s signature. It takes time for precinct workers to locate a voter’s name, have the person sign in and then check the signature.

The ePoll book is very fast and can validate a voter in about half of the time, Radke said.

At the precinct, a clerk’s book is kept. A worker writes down each voters’ names in the order they come in to cast ballots. Additionally, street logs are printed to show voters the correct precinct if they appear in the wrong place to vote.

An ePoll book would speed up the process and eliminate the need to print out all of the books or to keep the clerk’s book, the tablet would automatically record the information.

“This does everything,” Kerr said.

When a voter checks in, the poll worker enters a few letters from the last name and a list of people appears. Once the information is confirmed, the voter will electronically sign on the tablet screen, much like when people use credit cards at a retailer.

Commissioner Jim Carmichael was concerned about the signatures, because when he signs at a retailer, the signature is not exactly like a written one.

Poll workers will compare the signatures, Radke said.

Commissioner Scott Wiggam asked what would happen if voters show up at the wrong precincts, will they have to cast ballots at the correct ones.

The ePoll books can print out the address of the proper precinct and even include a map, Radke said. However, Ohio law allows voters to cast provisional ballots, so voters would still have that option.

These ePoll books will become important if Ohio moves away from precincts to voting centers, Board of Elections Director Peter James said.

A voting center would be equipped to accept voters from around the county regardless in which precinct a voter resides. The tablets will be able to contain the county’s elections database and update who has voted.

Deputy Director Julie Leathers said there has been some talk of making schools voting centers, because they are spread out around counties. If this happens, then districts might schedule in-service days so there are no classes on election days.

“I see an enormous advantage to having electronic poll books,” Board of Elections member Betsy Sheets said. “The vote center thing is coming. It is down the road, but it is coming.”

Sheets is hopeful the ePoll books will save money, which will free up funds to increase pay for staff.

Commissioner Ann Obrecht said the County Commissioners Association of Ohio is recommending the state make money available to the counties for the new poll books.

Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or bwarren@the-daily-record.com. He is @BobbyWarrenTDR on Twitter.

March 11, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

If you received a letter in the mail indicating that you are in precinct Chippewa Twp. #1, it was INCORRECTLY printed that your voting location is the Community Building in Marshallville. YOUR CORRECT POLLING LOCATION is the Chippewa Township Building at 14228 GALEHOUSE ROAD in Doylestown. Corrected letters to affected voters are being sent this week.

March 3, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

The Wayne County Board of Elections has just completed the largest precinct consolidation (as a percentage of total precincts) in its history. We lowered the number of precincts in Wayne County from 81 to 67, and coupled with a few new polling locations for already existing precincts, about 10,000 voters are receiving letters in early March notifying them of changes to their voting location.

As a government office, we have two main objectives that guide us through everything we do — customer service and fiscal responsibility.

Customer Service

We are doing everything in our power to make sure the transition to new precincts is as smooth as possible. First, we chose to make these changes now because 2015 is going to be a low turnout election year, certainly in comparison to next year, when there’s a presidential primary election in early March and of course the large November General Election. This allows us to implement these changes in two elections (May 2015 and November 2015) and make any logistical adjustments that may be needed.

Second, we are using every communication tool available at our disposal to inform the voters affected by these changes. In addition to sending out first-class letters to each voter, we published a special notice in The Daily Record outlining the changes, which will compliment already published news articles on the subject. Director Peter James appeared on WKVX radio February 16 to talk about these changes as well, and of course we have detailed information available on our website.

For the vast majority of voters affected by these changes, the distance to their polling location did not significantly increase. With very few exceptions, all voters can reach their voting location in less than 15 minutes.

Finally, the reduction in the number of polling locations is “greasing the skids,” so to speak, for a likely greater reduction in the number of voting locations that appears to be inevitable in Ohio. The state is currently exploring the idea of Vote Centers, larger but fewer in numbers, polling locations around the county, that any voter could cast their vote. For example, if you live in Doylestown but work in Wooster, you could vote in a Wooster vote center and still receive a ballot created based upon your Doylestown address.

Fiscal Responsibility

The driving force behind the precinct consolidation is the amount of money this will save Wayne County, both now and in the future. The following figures are rough estimates, but they provide a sense of the money being saved:

  • The cost to run a precinct for any given election is about $500 (precinct election official pay + supplies).
  • The cost to license and warranty a single voting machine is about $120 per year.
  • Assuming two elections per year, every precinct that we are able to eliminate provides a savings of about $1,000 each year.
  • A reduction of 14 precincts is saving the county about $14,000 in 2015, and every year after that using current conditions.
  • Fewer precincts means less of a need for voting machines. We expect a savings of about $5,000 based upon decreased machine usage.

In summary, the precinct consolidations will save about $19,000 for Wayne County each year under current conditions. However, the real fiscal savings will be realized in the near future, when new voting equipment will need to be purchased. This will likely be a seven-figure investment for the county. So a 17% reduction in the number of polling locations means approximately a 17% reduction in the number of voting machines — which means easily a six-figure savings for the county when the time comes to buy new voting equipment.

Precinct Consolidation Changes

Below are the details of the changes:

March 2, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

By BOBBY WARREN Staff Writer Published: February 23, 2015 4:00AM

WOOSTER — About 30 minutes after Mike Buytendyk turned in his petitions to elections officials to seek reelection as Wooster council president, he received a call saying his petitions were invalid.

The news from the Wayne County Board of Elections was like being knocked in the stomach, Buytendyk said. At first, he wasn’t sure what to do. He thought his chance to run again for president was finished, only getting one bite at the apple.

However, he discovered an Ohio Supreme Court decision that would allow him to send a letter to the board of elections instructing it to withdraw his petition. Then, he could submit a new petition.

Buytendyk dropped off his petitions the day before the filing deadline. Based on a directive from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, elections officials cannot advise or give guidance to candidates. Buytendyk believes the interpretation is wrong.

Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive May 10, 2011, which informs county boards of elections, “This directive prohibits boards of elections from pre-checking petitions for prospective candidates or petitioners who seek review of their petitions’ validity and sufficiency before the candidates or petitioners file their original petitions. …

“While pre-checks may appear to be a public service that potential candidates could rely on to improve their chance of being certified to the ballot, in reality, pre-checks provide a false sense of security for candidates.”

Later, Husted wrote, “However, it is imprudent for a board of elections to engage in a practice that allows any candidate or petitioner to believe that his or her petition is valid and sufficient before the petition is filed …”

Buytendyk’s interpretation of the directive is elections workers cannot give pre-approval of petitions, and he was not looking for that. If staff could look over the petitions and suggest areas to look at, it would be helpful.

The problem with Buytendyk’s petitions was there was no number in the space to designate how many signatures there were. However, elections officials could not point the error out to Buytendyk, which “frosted” him, he said. “It’s a disservice to the candidates, and it’s a disservice to the people who signed the petitions.”

Buytendyk suggested the board have a checklist on the counter for everyone to look at before filing their petitions. The checklist could even have some highlights to call attention to problematic areas. When he dropped off his new petitions, he asked for the board’s policy on handling petitions.

Buytendyk discovered there was no policy on record, but there is now.

Earl Kerr, president of the Wayne County Board of Elections, talked about the issue when the board met Feb. 10. He sought a motion to have Buytendyk’s initial petition be withdrawn; it was.

“This is a classic example of not following directions,” board member Sue Donohoe said.

Deputy Director Julie Leathers said Buytendyk downloaded his petition forms online. Had he come into the office, he would have received instructions about filing petitions.

Because of the situation, Director Peter James and Leathers worked on coming up with a checklist, and it will be handed to each candidate who comes into the office to file petitions.

Elections officials cannot make the candidates read them, Leathers said.

“The responsibility is on them,” board member B. Jean Mohr said. “If they want to be candidates, they need to be a little more careful.”

“We did everything right, but we did not envision what could go wrong,” Director Peter James said. He recommended the board pass the new policy in order to help candidates get on the ballot.

Buytendyk said he appreciates the change in policy, and if people want to call it the “Iron Mike Rule,” then that is OK, too.

“I can laugh about it now,” Buytendyk said.

Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or bwarren@the-daily-record.com. He is @BobbyWarrenTDR on Twitter.

February 17, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections
January 29, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

By Steve Hoffman 
Beacon Journal editorial writer

(Link to story on Ohio.com)

Earlier this month, at the winter meeting of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, a proposal was dropped that could bring dramatic changes to traditional voting methods.

The idea is for Election Day balloting to occur at a small number of vote centers instead of scattered polling locations, each handling a few precincts.

The big plus is that properly registered voters would be allowed to cast a ballot anywhere in a county — a convenience to those who commute to work or have other responsibilities that take them far from home during the day.

Vote centers would also bring an end to a long-running fight in Ohio over what to do about voters who show up in the wrong place. As matters stand, ballots cast by those who show up at the wrong precinct but correct polling location (“right church, wrong pew”) are counted. Not so for those who show up at the wrong polling location.

One way to fix that is to do what some 20 other states do — count so-called “wrong church” votes, at least as many of them as possible. Those voting in the wrong location might not be able to voice an opinion about a local issue, such as a liquor option, or a local candidate.

Still, the vote center idea has some appeal because it is extremely unlikely that Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature would ever allow “wrong church” votes to be counted, as its members are generally obsessed with the hobgoblin of voter fraud, practically nonexistent in Ohio.

Broached by Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, the idea of vote centers for Ohio appears to face a bumpy road, given the state’s history of fierce, partisan fights over even the smallest changes in voting laws and practices.

Vote centers were pioneered in Larimer County, Colo., which replaced 143 polling places with 31 vote centers. Larimer (county seat, Fort Collins) is not exactly urban America. Its approximately 300,000 people are almost entirely white, and less than 10 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. Fort Collins is home of Colorado State University, indicating a well-educated population. The county is also big on early voting. As many as two-thirds of voters cast ballots before Election Day, taking the pressure off vote centers.

What concerns Democrats is how vote centers would work in urban counties where transportation options are more difficult and voters would have to adjust to a big change in voting behavior. Not all voters have cars, and public transportation might not be convenient.

The other problem is estimating potential cost savings. Saving money is an attractive option to many local boards of elections, which face financial pressure, not to mention practical difficulties in finding suitable polling locations and staffing them.

Ockerman’s initial estimates are based on reducing polling locations by as much as 75 percent, to realize a 33 percent cut in costs. His estimates are based on counties that use electronic voting, which eliminates the need to provide voters across a county with the proper paper ballot, wherever they show up.

Larimer County, which uses optically scanned ballots, invested in printers that spit out ballots on demand, although printers are not in use at vote centers. Extra copies of ballots are distributed, with more printed and sent out to vote centers when needed. But even with on-demand printers on site, long lines could form in a crunch. At Franklin County’s early voting center in 2008, people waited for as long as six hours because there were not enough printers.

The other necessary investment is in electronic poll books, connected to a secure server. In other words, once someone has voted at a vote center, all the other centers must be able to know, immediately.

So far, 11 states, among them Indiana, Texas and Arizona, have either authorized local jurisdictions to try Election Day vote centers or permitted pilot projects in specified locations. Several more are looking. According to researchers at the National Conference of State Legislatures, voter convenience is the big reason vote centers are popular, but no big states in the eastern part of the country have tried them.

As the experience in Larimer County suggests, Election Day vote centers are probably best viewed as part of a package that includes plenty of early voting opportunities, either in person or by mail, widespread adoption of electronic voting and use of electronic poll books.

Broadly speaking, vote centers do reflect the realities of modern, suburban America, as opposed to the 18th century lifestyle behind precinct-based voting. While vote centers might work well in some locations, urban counties might not be one of them, and that means more election controversy in this battleground state.

Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed atslhoffman@thebeaconjournal.com.

January 26, 2015 / By Wayne County Board of Elections

The Ohio Association of Election Officials (OAEO) produced this video to help provide the public with an inside glimpse into the planning of each election. Each county board of elections follows these processes to ensure that a successful election is administered. The Wayne County Board of Elections is a member of the OAEO.