Thursday, April 1, 2004

State delays forcing voting-system decision

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Ohio Secretary of State's Office probably won't select a new voting system for Hamilton County before Friday, spokesman James Lee said Wednesday.

Secretary Kenneth Blackwell told the county Board of Elections last week that his office would pick a system if the board hadn't picked one by Wednesday morning. The selection process is part of a statewide effort to retire the punch-card ballot and comply with the federal Help America Vote Act.

Hamilton County officials say Blackwell is rushing the process. The election board's two Republicans reluctantly supported Hart InterCivic's electronic voting system Tuesday, but its two Democrats refused to state a preference. The board unanimously approved a report to Blackwell to that effect.

The secretary - who is considered the fifth member of all 88 county election boards - was able to vote Wednesday to break ties in Montgomery, Lucas and Union counties. In Montgomery, for instance, the two Republicans chose Diebold's touch-screen system and the two Democrats wanted to put conditions on the choice, so Blackwell settled the matter by voting for Diebold.

Hamilton County's split was similar to Montgomery's, but because the only vote was a unanimous one approving the report, the county falls in the category of "undecided." It shares space there with Highland and Clinton counties, whose boards refused to make choices.


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