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National Issues

March 4 Snapshot: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont PDF  | Print |  Email
By Verified Voting Foundation   
March 01, 2008
Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont hold Presidential primaries on March 4. Ohio and Texas will also hold state primaries. In all four states, turnout is expected to increase substantially from 2004. The March 4 states use a mix of voting system types. Ohio has a mix of counties useing direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines with a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, and counties using only optically scanned paper ballots. Texas has a very wide diversity of voting systems, including many paperless DREs. Rhode Island and Vermont use paper ballots exclusively. None of these states require manual post election audits of their inital, software-generated, results. In all four states, the primaries are under the jurisdiction of the state election officials, rather than of the political parties.

 
Ohio

• Ohio's voting systems have been the subject of national attention and controversy following Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's EVEREST review and her subsequent push for optical scan voting systems with central counting of ballots. The EVEREST review, conducted by computer scientists from leading universities and private sector consultants, found grave security vulnerabilities, and the Academic Team review cast doubt on the reliability and security of the VVPAT printers for the Premier (Diebold) TSx and the ES&S iVotronic DRE machines. Only 4 counties that were previously using direct-recording electronic machines have switched to paper ballots since the EVEREST review.

• 29 of Ohio's 88 counties use only optically scanned paper ballots, with ES&S M100 ballot scanners at the polling place, and the AutoMARK ballot marker for accessibility. These counties chose optical scan systems in 2006.

• Cuyahoga County, the state's largest, was ordered by Secretary Brunner to switch to optical scan for the March 4 primary, following a number of failures of the paper-trail printers on the county's TSx touch screen DREs. Cuyahoga will use paper ballots as the primary voting system, counted by ES&S high-speed M650 optical scanners. For voters with disabilities, the county will continue to use its Premier (Diebold) TSx touch screens.

• 5 other counties will use blended systems, with optically scanned paper ballots being the primary system and DREs used for accessibility. Three of these counties, Mercer, Van Wert, and Putnam, have switched recently to optically scanned paper ballots for the primary. Mercer and Van Wert will use central counting with optical scanners, with the Premier TSx available for accessibility. Putnam will use the ES&S M100 scanner at the polling place, with the iVotronic DRE for accessibility. 

• 9 counties will use the ES&S iVotronic as the primary voting system.

• 44 counties will use the Premier (Diebold) TSx as the primary voting system. 

• As of November 2006, Ohio had over 7.8 million registered voters. There is no party registration in the state. Almost 2.4 million voters voted in the March 2004 primary.

Rhode Island
• Rhode Island has a uniform statewide paper ballot system, with ES&S M100 optical scanners at the polling place with an AutoMARK ballot-marling device to serve voters with disabilities.

• As of February 7, 2008, the state Board of Elections reports that there are 665,091 registered voters in the Rhode Island, with 236,404 registered Democrats, 75,726 Republicans, and 352,961 unaffiliated voters.In 2004, just over 2,500 Republicans and over 25,000 Democrats voted in the Presidential primary.

Texas
• Texas has a smorgasboard of voting systems. Though optical scanners are on hand in all but 33 of the state's 254 counties, over 100 counties have both DREs and scanning equipment systems. Many of these counties use DREs exclusively in early voting, and at least some using only DREs at the election-day polling places. The Secretary of State's office maintains a database of the systems that counties have on hand, but the counties vary considerably in how they use the equipment for early voting, election-day voting, and mail-in absentee voting. A county with optical scanners and DREs may use scanners only for paper mail-in ballots, or may use scanners and DREs on election day, with only DREs used for early voting, etc.

• In at least 77 counties, DREs are the primary voting system on election day as well as the system used for early voting. These include 6 of the largest 15 counties: Bexar, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Williamson, and Nueces. 24 counties use the ES&S iVotronic, 2 use the Premier (Diebold) TSx, and 51 counties use the Hart eSlate as the primary election day and early voting system.

• Among the 15 most populous counties in the state, at least 8 use DREs exclusively in early voting. These include Dallas, Bexar, and Hidalgo counties, which use the iVotronic in early voting, and El Paso County, which uses only the Premier TSx in early voting. Tarrant, Nueces, Galveston, and Montgomery use the Hart eSlate in early voting. The Secretary of State's office maintains a daily total of early voting at this website.

• 98 of the state's 254 counties use only paper ballots, with the AutoMARK for accessibility. 3 of these counties hand-count their paper ballots, and 95 use optically scanned paper ballots. 56 use the ES&S M100 precinct scanner with the AutoMARK, and 39 use central-count scanners from ES&S, including the M650, as well as the older M150 and M550 models.

• Verified Voting  has communicated with 8 counties that own only DRE voting equipment but offer paper ballots in early and election-day voting. The paper ballots are hand-counted. The 7 counties are Brewster, Comanche, Cottle, Culberson, Dickens, Hudpseth, Menard, and Runnels.

• A copy of the Secretary of State's inventory may be viewed at this URL (this inventory may not be as current as the Excel spreadsheet Verified Voting obtained from the Secretary of State's office).

• Texas has over 12.6 million voters as of January 2008. 1.8 million of that total are on what is known as a "suspense list." The suspense list is generated when registrars mail out a certificate every two years, which is returned if the address is invalid. Voters on the suspense list may vote at their old polling place if they live in the same county, and will be removed after two federal elections in which they are on the suspense list.

• 687,515 voters voted in the Republican primary in 2004, and 839,231 voters voted in the Democratic primary.

Vermont
• Vermont's elections are administered at the township level.

• 92 municipalities use the Premier (Diebold) AccuVote optical scanner as the primary voting system. These towns comprise the larger population centers. 154 towns use hand-counted paper ballots as the primary voting system.

• For accessibility, all municipalities use the IVS Vote by Phone system.

• Voters in the Presidential primary are asked at the polling place which party ballot they wish to vote. The voter's choice of ballot is public knowledge, but records are not kept at the state level. Vermont does not maintain records of party registration. According to the Secretary of State's office, there are 423, 957 registered voters in the state. In 2004, 27,673 voters cast Republican ballots in the Presidential primary, and 83,116 voted in the Democratic primary.

Sources: Ohio Secretary of State's office, Rhode Island Board of Elections, Texas Secretary of State's office, Texas County Clerk's offices,  Vermont Secretary of State's office.
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