Chairman addresses voting integrity

MIAMI COUNTY — With the nation’s focus on election results and tabulation of votes, Miami County Board of Elections Chairman Dave Fisher addressed the issue of voter integrity.

For the Nov. 3 Presidential Election, Miami County election officials used a percentage based audit of the 58,361 ballots cast on election day.

Elections officials conducted its post-election audit in December with only one ballot of the 3,225 audited found in error.

In December, Director Laura Bruns said the error was likely attributed to a jammed ballot, which was pushed through without being counted. The audit of 3,225 ballots and its one ballot error still fell under the allowable error margin of 99.8 percent. Bruns said poll worker training to prevent jams and how to handle them when they occur would be emphasized before the next election.

During the Nov. 3 post-election canvas, five voters attempted to double vote by both absentee ballot and in-person at the polls. The board voted, with Jim Oda abstaining from the vote, to forward those ballots to the Miami County Prosecutor’s Office. According to Miami County Prosecutor Tony Kendell, those five double votes and their registered voters’ information has been forwarded to the FBI for further investigation. Kendell said the incident from the spring primary, where an individual voted early in-person twice — once for each political party on two separate days — was dismissed due to the individual’s mental health deficiency.

Fisher said it’s unknown why they tried to double vote. Using the benefit of doubt, Fisher said they may have been fearful their vote wouldn’t get to the office in time by mail or other logistical factors. Fisher said while he personally wouldn’t prosecute them, it is against the law.

A year ago, the Secretary of State Frank LaRose removed the Miami County Board of Elections from its oversight following a year of observation and implementation of policies, daily operations procedures, and updated its Election Administrative Plan among other events. In the November 2018 general election, board staff failed to properly download and tally more than 6,200 in-person absentee votes. Those votes were counted and did not change the outcome of any race. An investigation by the state found staff did not shut down the machines properly, which required an additional step on Election Day. Former Director Bev Kendall was fired by the board. She has since filed a civil suit for wrongful termination, which is still pending. Laura Bruns, formerly of Mercer County and director of its board of elections, was hired by the board in May 2019.

“We’ve worked really hard to make sure our procedures are done correctly,” Fisher said. “Miami County has nothing to worry about with its election system. The issue in 2018 used the old system and once we realized what step was missed, we fixed it. We have a new system, we have new procedures in place. We are counting your votes and our bipartisan teams are working hand-in-hand in the office.”

Miami County’s former voting system, the touch screen Dominion system, which is at the center of the Georgia presidential election debate, was replaced by the paper ballot from Clear Ballot. Fisher noted the error in November 2018 was human error, not the software or voting system.

Fisher said volunteers, seasonal part-time staff and poll workers are to be commended for their efforts, including during the pandemic. In the spring primary, early voting was completed, but Gov. Mike DeWine ordered to close the polls on March 17 and moved the primary to all absentee ballots on April 28.

“We take our partisan hats off at the door. It’s all about counting the votes and making sure citizens’ votes are heard. All the craziness and unfactual accounts of fraud of our voting system … there’s not. Every state takes it seriously. We are all in this together,” Fisher said.

On Tuesday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose provided the results of county post-election audits online for the first time. In counties that utilized a percentage-based audit, the results show a 99.98 percent accuracy rate in the presidential election.

“Early last year we set a clear mission — that Ohio voters would be confident their voice was heard in an honest election,” LaRose said. “The incredible accuracy of the results as reflected in the post-election audits should make every Ohioan proud not only of their bipartisan election officials but of the system we have in place. Ohio ran a fair and accurate election.”

A post-election audit is a comprehensive review of the results of one or more contests in an election to ensure that the results reported by the board of elections are accurate. Ohio counties may utilize one of two types of audits, both widely considered as reliable ways to determine the accuracy of the results. An automatic county-wide recount may also serve as a post-election audit.