Saturday, December 15, 2007
BY PAUL E. KOSTYU
REPOSITORY COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
COLUMBUS A study that says Ohio’s election systems are not secure is an indictment of the way the nation votes, according to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.
That’s because the same electronic voting machines used in Ohio, including those made by a subsidiary of North Canton-based Diebold, are used throughout the country and they all have “critical security failures.”
There’s not enough time in Ohio to fix the problems by the March 2008 primary, but Brunner said it is possible to have replacement systems ready for the November presidential election. She wants the state to switch entirely to optical scan devices instead of the touch screens now used.
Switching, however, could be a time-consuming and costly process. Brunner didn’t know how much the cost would be, and neither did House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering, who joined Brunner at a press conference Friday.
Husted said the only money available is in the state’s $1 billion rainy-day fund. He wouldn’t take a position on whether a fix is needed, saying he needs to read the massive report and meet with other lawmakers. He said any legislative action will have to wait until the Legislature is back in session next month.
Brunner wants to craft a bipartisan solution with the governor’s office and leaders of the General Assembly. It would have to be in effect by mid-April to be ready for the November election, she said.
Brunner compared the state’s elections system to a car with a problem axle. She said eventually the axle will fail. She’s hoping local boards of elections can keep the system working to get through the March primary.
She acknowledged that her predecessor, Republican J. Kenneth Blackwell, initially wanted to move the state from a punch card system to optical scan until some boards of elections sued him so they could use touch screen devices.
She also said the federal government through the Help America Vote Act pushed the states too quickly to implement changes. Now she said there is no federal money available to help states move to other systems.
“It definitely was an expensive experiment” to use touch screen machines, she said.
Matt Damschroder, president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said the group needed to review the report before responding. Twelve local election officials from across the state were involved in the study.
“I know first hand the amount of effort that went into drafting this report,” said Shannon Leininger, deputy director of the Ashland County board of elections. “But now the real work begins as we ... decide how we move forward.”
“It is important to note that there has not been a single documented case of a successful attack against an electronic voting system in Ohio or anywhere in the United States,” said Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Election Solutions, a Texas-based subsidiary of Diebold.
He said many of the issues listed in Brunner’s report were identified in earlier studies and the company has modified its software to strengthen security.