08 November 2005

Finkbeiner leads early; Ohio voters reject election changes
in Issues 2, 3, 4, 5

The Toledo Blade - 11/08/05

[...] Voters turned back four ballot proposals today to change Ohio election law, while a once-rejected high-tech research financing was comfortably ahead.

[...] The long statewide ballot issues confused some voters today in an off-year election with light turnout and few glitches from the use of new voting machines in about half of Ohio’s 88 counties.

“I didn’t understand a lot of them,” said Cleveland voter Theo Bell, who skipped over the state questions. “I didn’t want to put something down, not understand and vote for the wrong thing.”

[...] The election proposals — all constitutional amendments — would have opened absentee balloting to all voters, lowered the limit on individual campaign contributions, put a board in charge of drawing congressional and legislative districts instead of elected officials and switched election supervision from the secretary of state to another board.

[...] This election was the first full Lucas County ballot to use the Diebold touch-screen machines, which are controversial because of the technology and because the company’s chairman and CEO, Walden O’Dell, was a top fund-raiser for President Bush in Ohio.

“I think you have a little apprehension. You walk in, and you see a machine is down,” Mr. Seibert said. “If something malfunctions, are the votes still counted?”

In a world increasingly digital, voters and poll workers yesterday gave mixed reviews of the Diebold machines that allow voters to use touch screens instead of paper ballots or levers behind curtains.

A ballot prints inside the machine, like an ATM. But voters don’t get a receipt, like they do at the ATM. Some said it was easier.

[...] But some early voters received the wrong ballots for where they lived, causing improper votes to be cast. Issue 33, a proposed 1.9-mill levy for Waterville Township police, was wrongly placed on the ballot for some voters in Waterville and Whitehouse. Elections officials caught the error by late morning.

Other morning voters were given paper ballots or left without voting because the machines were not set up in time.

Ken Jerome, 67, showed up late morning at St. Petri Lutheran Church, 3120 South Byrne Rd., to find most of the machines not working, he said. After waiting about 25 minutes, he left without casting his ballot.

“It’s discouraging to attempt to go vote and be walking into a mess,” he said.

Jill Kelly, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said workers in those situations used provisional ballots. Others of the 2,000 poll workers were talked through problems.

Wood County elections director Terry Burton said similar problems in his county were because of human error.

At the Girl Scout Council, Carty Finkbeiner supporters and Mayor Jack Ford supporters handed out literature. The Finkbeiner camp accused the Ford camp of improperly campaigning inside the polling place, a charge that appeared unproven but was voiced loudly.

Some high school and college students campaigned on behalf of four ballot initiatives to change how state elections are managed and legislative districts drawn.

The Old West End site is an urban mixing point of political opinion. But from 6:30 a.m. to about 10:30 a.m., few voters could cast touch-screen ballots because machines were not set up.

Eddie Small, the precinct’s presiding judge, said he knew turnout was higher this year because his legs were tired.

“We had to use paper ballots for awhile. We processed close to 100,” he said. “We figured it out ourselves. By 10:30, it kind of kicked-in.”

At Beverly, poll worker Bob Gorny looked over to the broken machine. “Right there, that one’s been out all day. They’ve been sending a mechanic all day,” he said with a note of sarcasm.


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