Switching from electronic voting machines to paper ballots in Butler County, Ohio, could yield savings of more than US$4.5M over five-year period, finds state audit; other Ohio counties could also save millions by implementing switch

LOS ANGELES , March 8, 2012 () – According to a recent state audit, switching from electronic voting machines to paper ballots in Butler Country, Ohio, could yield savings of more than US$4.5 million over a five-year period, Dayton Daily News reported March 5.

The audit noted that, by law, every country in Ohio must have paper ballots on hand, and paper ballots are used for absentee voting. Every county also has a paper ballot system. According to Ohio law, registered voters can cast an absentee ballot for any reason, and the popularity of absentee voting has increased steadily over the years.

A study conducted in North Carolina in 2005 indicated that touch screens require more maintenance and are more expensive, and that one optical scan machine can perform the work of 20 touch-screen machines.

The North Carolina study reported that elections in counties that used touch-screen machines were 30%-40% more expensive than elections in counties that did not use touch-screen machines. The state auditor found that administrative costs in Butler County had risen 33% since the country began using touch screen machines, and estimated that, annually, the county could save US$905,000 by switching to paper ballots.

Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said that, in contrast to counties’ assumption that the use of touch-screen systems would save money, many were finding that due to either maintenance expenses or legal changes, touch-screen systems were actually more expensive.

The audit noted that switching from touch-screen machines to optical scan machines “increases voter confidence, reduces administrative and equipment costs and eliminates the need to estimate the number of back-up paper ballots necessary.”

Montgomery County Board of Elections Deputy Director Steve Harsman was skeptical, and argued that any savings on the front end from switching to optical scan machines would likely be outstripped by additional back costs due to the risks associated with paper ballots.

Applying the same formulas that were used in the Butler Country audit, over a five-year period, Montgomery County could potentially save $5.5 million by switching to paper ballots.

Carrie Bartunek, a spokesperson for the Auditor’s Office, emphasized the audit’s findings were specific to Butler Country, and said that her office was not advocating for counties to switch to paper ballots.

Fifty-two counties in Ohio use touch-screen voting machines. Butler is the eighth largest county in Ohio.

The primary source of this article is the Dayton Daily News, Dayton, Ohio, on March 5, 2012.

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