County to return to paper ballots

MIAMI COUNTY — After months of discussion, the Miami County Board of Elections voted Tuesday night to purchase a paper ballot voting system.

The board voted 3-1 to purchase a paper ballot system from Clear Ballot that will cost about $860,000. It could be in place by the May election.

The vote was made after a discussion of the more than 6,200 early votes that went missing during the November election. The board said there would be an investigation into the missing votes on Tuesday and fired Director Beverly Kendall.

Board member Rob Long said that after the problem with the county’s current voting equipment during the last election, he has “lost confidence in the touchscreens.”

“I believe that a full-face paper ballot voting system is the best voting system for Miami County,” Long said. “Clear Ballot’s paper ballot voting system will also save Miami County taxpayers over $1 million in comparison to a touchscreen voting system.”

The board will receive just over $1 million by the state for new equipment. The board received a quote for a hybrid system that would have cost $1.877 million.

Board member Ryan King, who voted no, said that he does not believe the issues experienced in November would be solved by a paper ballot system because the votes will still be tabulated electronically. He added that he believes the trend in voting equipment will continue to move toward electronic voting systems.

“I would agree that paper doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. I do, however, feel like the digital scanning and the software that comes with that particular Clear Ballot paper system would have caught this problem,” board member Audrey Gillespie said.

Board Chairman Dave Fisher called the hand-marked paper ballot voting system “the safest way to vote.” He also said that the new system is more advanced than the paper scanning systems of the past.

The county received quotes for options including a system in which voters fill in a paper ballot that is then scanned and recorded, a fully electronic touchscreen system that does not print a paper record, and a hybrid system in which voters use a touchscreen to mark a ballot, which is then printed on paper.

At a meeting in December, the board was split 2-2 over a new system, though Long said his vote was conditional on gathering more information about both systems.

By Cecilia Fox

Troy Daily News

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