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Issue Date: September 2008

Four Years, Four Voting Systems

Used in Cuyahoga County
Voting image
Voting image
Voting image
Voting image

Punch cards


Central-count optical scan

Precinct-based optical scan

Used in Cuyahoga County 1981 to 2005
May 2006 to November 2007
March 2008
August 2008 to present
How we voted Voters stuck a punch-tool through holes between ballot pages, poking out holes in a card. Voters selected their choices by touching a computer screen, then checked a printout to confirm their vote. On paper ballots, voters filled in ovals with black ink. Ballots were counted by high-speed scanners downtown. On paper ballots, voters fill in ovals with black ink. Ballots go through scanners at the polling place that warn voters if they overvoted.
The Promise Easy counting by machine. Cards made recounts easier than old booths with levers. More reliable: won’t let people overvote, no messy marks on paper to puzzle officials. Paper ballots protected voting and recounts from equipment failures. Simpler for poll workers. Better protection against losing votes. Counting should go faster, as long as poll workers keep good track of ballots and scanner memory cards.
The Reality Always lost about 2 percent of votes cast because it was too easy to screw up a ballot (remember hanging chads?). Congress provided massive grants to replace them after the 2000 Florida election catastrophe. Computers and memory cards confused poll workers. Fragile machines broke down. Paper records for recounts folded, spindled, mutilated. Vote-counting servers crashed. Security flaws exposed. Former chairman of manufacturer, Diebold, inspired deep mistrust by fundraising for Republican Party. Counting took until 5:30 a.m., since 406,000 ballots had to go through 15 machines. With no defense against overvoting — filling in two ovals by mistake — the lost-vote problem returned. To be determined.
The Cost N/A $21 million: $14 million in federal funds, $7 million in county funds $1.5 million in county funds (one-time rental) $13.4 million in county funds
As trustworthy as The Indians bullpen A used-car salesman A rent-a-cop A real cop

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