Paper ballots take place of touch screen

County says no funds to update

WARREN — The next time voters cast ballots in Trumbull County, it will be with paper ballots because the county’s touch-screen system is being retired.

The Ohio Secretary of State allocated $2.01 million for the Trumbull County Board of Elections to replace its 13-year-old existing system, but there is no local money available to purchase another touch-screen system, said Stephanie Penrose, director of the county board of elections.

When outgoing Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced the funds earlier this year — legislation set aside $104.5 million for boards across the state — he said it was time to “say goodbye to aging voting equipment that pre-dates the first-generation iPhone.”

And while some counties were able to use local funds along with the state cash, Trumbull County commissioners don’t have the funds to spare for something more technologically advanced, Penrose said.

“The money just isn’t there,” Penrose said.

However, in times of growing election security concerns, many voters are likely to be pleased with a more low-tech solution anyway, Penrose said.

“With all the cyber security concerns lately, this system is a good fit. It is simplified, but there is an ease to voting with this system. It is easier on the poll workers and easy on the voters,” she said.

Anyone who has voted absentee or at the board of elections during early voting has used a paper ballot system. The voter will color in ovals with a pen and then scan their own ballots into the scanners that will be a part of the system, Penrose said.

The scan will be downloaded on removable media storage devices and at the end of voting, the data will be taken to the board of elections to be downloaded into the secure system to report the votes, Penrose said. The process shouldn’t take any longer to get results in, and may even speed things up because it will be more simple to break down the polling locations at the end of the night, she said.

The system the board selected from Omaha-based Election System and Software, will cost $1.3 million. In the next year, the board will seek bids on a printer to print the bulk of the ballots needed for the election, but will have printers on hand to print ballots if necessary. Even with additional paper costs, the system will cost the board much less than other options.

A new touch-screen system with the company the board currently uses, Dominion Voting Systems, would cost $3.2 million, Penrose said. A paper and touch-screen hybrid system would cost $4.5 million.

“Ballots aren’t cheap, but there is no way we will catch up to the other $2 million or so we could be spending on a more expensive system,” Penrose said.

The board also approved hiring Kelley Hughlett of Bristol at $11.96 an hour to fill an open position of election specialist. The board is still seeking Republican applicants to fill a second election specialist position. It too pays $11.96 an hour and offers county benefits.

Applicants should submit a letter of interest in full-time, part-time or both statuses. Applicants should mail, email or turn in a current resume and a minimum of three references. Applications can be sent to 2947 Youngstown Road SE, Warren, OH 44484 or bepe nros@co.trumbull.oh.us.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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