COLUMBUS, Ohio – The state's plan to place electronic voting machines in counties that wanted them for the Nov. 2 election has ended because of security questions and a lack of time to answer them.
Three Ohio counties that were considering a switch will not be allowed to do so because of concerns about the machines' security, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (search) said Friday.
Hardin, Lorain and Trumbull counties had tentatively agreed to use the machines made by North Canton-based Diebold Inc. Mercer County decided this week to stick with its current system, Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said. The other three counties will do likewise, LoParo said.
Mercer, Lorain and Trumbull counties will use punch-card ballots on Nov. 2, while Hardin will use cards read by an electronic scanner. Of Ohio's 88 counties, 69 will use punch cards, 13 will use scanners and six will use electronic voting, though not Diebold machines.
Blackwell said he made his decision based on a preliminary study of a second round of security tests. The first round found 57 problems, most security related, in the machines made by the three vendors picked to supply them -- Diebold, Electronic Systems and Software, and Hart Intercivic.
Diebold was the only vendor to submit new software and hardware for retesting. Blackwell's office said the results of those tests would be released when the full study was complete.
"Secretary Blackwell wanted all issues to be corrected. One outstanding issue was enough to stop the process," LoParo said.
LoParo said the counties knew they would have to use existing systems if questions about security remained after the second round of testing by Detroit-based Compuware Corp.
"The counties were told several months ago to make contingency plans," LoParo said. "There was disappointment that the system did not obtain our security requirements, but an understanding that our systems must be secure."
Mark Radke, director of marketing for Diebold Election Systems (search), said the company had received no information from Blackwell on any remaining security problems.
"We are anxious to learn the areas where the consultant believes additional work is needed," Radke said in a statement. Diebold spokesman Mike Jacobson said the company had no further comment.
Thirty-one counties with either punch-card or lever voting systems had originally planned to replace their machines for this year's election, but most backed out as the election drew closer. Most of those counties use punch card ballots, the type that plagued the Florida vote in the 2000 presidential election.
The ACLU (search) has sued the state over the lack of electronic voting, saying that relying on punch cards discriminates against blacks, who mostly live in punch-card counties. The suit claims that more punch-card votes are not counted because of overvoting than in other systems and some voters do no complete their ballots. The trial is set to begin on July 25.
Richard Saphire, a University of Dayton law professor representing the ACLU, said he wasn't surprised by Blackwell's decision and it does not affect the lawsuit.
"There's still a lot of reticence on the part of county officials to buy into it. From their point of view it's not the sensible thing to do," Saphire said. "A piecemeal approach isn't going to accomplish that we want to accomplish."