Only five people speak at voting hearing
Jon Craig reports:
Less than a third of the 57 counties using touch-screen voting machines in Ohio want to switch to another system, even if financed with state and federal tax money, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said today.
Brunner said more than 70 percent of the counties that responded to her survey -- roughly 42 counties -- do not want to replace voting systems, which were purchased with more than $100 million in federal dollars after the 2004 election. Additional survey details were not immediately available today.
“Funding should not be the paramount issue,’’ Brunner said today after a public hearing on her recommendation to scrap the electronic machines because of security concerns.
Fairness, accuracy and the ability to carry out a smooth election is more important than cost, the state’s chief election officer said.
Brunner got mostly favorable reaction during a lightly attended public hearing on her voting recommendations. Only five people, out of an audience of about 30 spoke during the 45-minute hearing.
Three citizen activists from Columbus praised Brunner for some of the changes that she initially suggested in a December study of voting systems, which found “serious vulnerabilities’’ in computerized voting systems and memory cards that store votes.
Two officers from the Ohio Association of Election Officials recommended doing a study of their own this spring, something Brunner said she hesitates to endorse – since it could cause more delays. They said county Boards of Elections do not favor spending any local tax dollars on overhauling systems, looking for state and federal help instead.
Shannon Leininger, deputy director of the of Ashland County Board of Elections, and president of the statewide election officials association, called Brunner’s study “a useful starting point.” The study, Leininger said, only pointed out the possibility and not the probability of an outside attack on voting systems. And many of the findings can be resolved, she said.
Three citizen activists also called the ban on touch-screen machines a good start, but suggested additional security changes.
“Thank you for protecting the security of our elections,’’ said Teresa Blakely of Columbus.
Pete Johnson of the Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections told Brunner the state must have the ability to audit election results and that it has ceded too much authority to voting machine vendors and consultants.
And Jason Parry, an electrical engineer from Columbus, offered several ideas including giving independent observers better access to polling places and recounts. Parry also questioned the security of Ohio’s statewide voter registration database, a new federal requirement. People who have access to the private information, including vendors, should undergo background checks, he said.Brunner said that while counties have the responsibility to select and buy equipment, her office is responsible for certifying voting machines. She hopes to reach a consensus without ordering their replacement, she said. “I still am in favor of eliminating (touch-screens) as they are currently configured