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Dayton Daily News

ELECTIONS

 

Secretary of state retreats from some voting changes

Brunner still wants to replace touch screen machines in 57 counties.

 

By William Hershey

Staff Writer

Saturday, January 19, 2008

 

COLUMBUS Most Ohio voters should expect to vote in November at the polling places where they usually vote.

 

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said Friday that she's no longer seeking the creation of statewide multiprecinct voting centers in time for the general election.

 

Brunner, however, said that she is going forward with efforts to replace nearly new electronic touch screen voting machines in 57 counties and replace them with paper ballots read by optical scan machines. Area counties that would have to switch include Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Darke and Butler.

 

The preliminary estimate of $31 million to pay for voting system changes she has recommended is "likely to increase," she said, but final figures are not available.

 

Attorney Ellis Jacobs of the Montgomery County Voter Protection Coalition applauded the decision on the voting centers. "I'm pleased with the approach she is taking," said Jacobs. "Asking people to travel further is not a good way of encouraging people to vote."

 

Brunner had wanted to have the new voting centers open for 15 days of early voting; that plan also will be put on hold, she said. Instead, she said she wants to do a pilot project with the multiprecinct centers and added that officials in Monroe County in southeastern Ohio already have expressed interest.

 

Also, Brunner said that she now wouldn't try to require that ballots be counted only at a central location in each county. While the official count would be done at the central location, votes also could be counted unofficially at each precinct, she said. Comparing precinct counts with the central count could be the first step of a post-election audit, she said.

 

Her comments came after she spoke this week to a meeting of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials. She also met on Wednesday with Gov. Ted Strickland and legislative leaders on voting issues.

 

Brunner made recommendations for changing the voting system after a $1.9 million study found "critical security failures" with Ohio's electronic voting systems that could affect the integrity of the state's elections.

 

She said that she, Strickland and the legislative leaders continue to try to reach consensus on how to proceed with changes, mainly replacing the touch screen machines.

 

Contact this reporter at (614) 224-1608 or whershey@DaytonDailyNews.com.

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