College Park (MD) – Researchers from the University of Maryland today said that the paper voting system used in tomorrow’s primary election in Ohio has “serious flaws” that could impact the accuracy of the election result.
The criticism takes aim at a new paper voting system that has replaced touch screen voting machines and that will be used in Cuyahoga County, which encompasses Cleveland. Voters will have to fill out ballots by hand, which later will be scanned into digital form.
However, voters will not be able to run their ballots through a scanner before handing them in, taking away and important safety net to catch a mistake. Instead, voters put their ballots in a collection box in the precinct, from where they are taken to a central location for scanning and tallying. The researchers claim that this procedure not only opens the doors to security issues, including election fraud, but also carries a greater risk of voter error.
If the ovals on the ballots aren’t perfectly marked, the scanning system could disqualify the vote as an “overvote” or the vote could be counted for a different candidate: “The worst mistake of all is accidentally voting for the competitor in the race,” said University of Maryland political scientist Paul Herrnson, who led the research team. “In effect, that’s two votes against your own candidate. With central count optical scan there’s no review screen to help a voter catch such an error.”
Herrnson cautioned Ohio voters to be careful when filling out the ballots, to avoid stray marks and to review their ballots closely. If voters need to make changes, they should ask for a new form instead of erasing, he said.