BOE seeks early voting space

MIAMI COUNTY — November may seem far off, but the Miami County Board of Elections is preparing for large voter turnout while juggling the challenges of social distancing mandates for early voting.

On Tuesday, director Laura Bruns reported to the board that the office needs a large enough space for this year’s general elections, which will require 6-foot spacing and more early voting staff to keep lines at a minimum. Both Bruns and deputy director Ian Ridgeway said there is not enough space at the Hobart Government building, which has served as its early voting center for several elections. Bruns said the added technology issues and staff being at two locations does not make it conducive to hold early voting down the street for a large voter turnout for the presidential election.

Bruns shared tentative plans to move its polling center carts to the former Ohio State Extension office training area and allow early voting in the storage space adjacent to the office. Secretary of State regional liaison Kenny Henning said he would investigate whether that room could be an option due to the tabulation computer currently in that space.

Chairman Dave Fisher said he spoke with Miami County Commissioners about the limited space issues going into the November general election. Fisher said the plaza project is likely to be complete by September which will eliminate some accessibility issues. Bruns said trying to find a way to bypass security with a dedicated handicap accessible entrance/exit, while also blocking access to the rest of the building was going to be difficult.

Fisher said he’s been discussing the need for the board of elections to relocate with commissioners and will continue to press for a new space. Bruns said she’d entertain any and all ideas on how to find adequate space with the current social distancing mandates. She also encouraged voters to consider absentee ballots for the General Election. Absentee ballot request forms will be sent by mail to all 7.8 million registered voters by the Secretary of State after Labor Day, she said.

• Bruns reported staff finished its hand-count audit of five precincts and discovered two votes in Brown Township were not counted for the March 17/April 28 Primary due to a scanning error. Bruns believed two ballots became jammed together as they were entered in the scanning machine and were sent through by accident without backing the ballots out. Bruns said the staff’s solution was to scan in smaller batches of 100 ballots at a time. She said if there’s a reported jam, the batch will be re-scanned all over again to avoid the issue in the future.

Bruns said there were large batches of ballots in the primary due to the all-absentee ballots following the state’s closing for the pandemic.

The two votes did not change the outcome of any race. Henning said a similar issue in Butler County with the touch-screen ballot system also occurred. Due to the error not crossing the 99.5 percent error threshold to expand the hand count, the audit was complete. Clear Ballot representatives were contacted about the error.

“It’s not how we want an audit to come out, but we do have a plan if it happens again,” she said.

Ridgeway said they were scanning ballots in batches by the day up to several thousands. Bruns said the office’s paper press to flatten ballots also cut down on the number of scanner errors. Bruns said she contacted the Secretary of State’s office for how to get the two ballots to count and is waiting for a response.

• Dr. William Ginn submitted a petition to be an independent write-in candidate for the county coroner’s office in the General Election.

• Bruns reported 1,550 Miami County voters were sent letters that their address had changed according to the U.S. Post Office and their voter registration has been updated. If the update was made in error, Bruns said the letter requests the resident to notify the board office. Bruns also reported 1,324 voters were made inactive due to out-of-county residential changes, but if they were to show up to the Miami County polls, they would be provided a provisional ballot. If the voter moves out of the county, their confirmation charge would be sent to that board so they can be registered there.