Recounts Possible For 9 Races In Cuyahoga County Election


Nov. 18, 2007


CLEVELAND -- Election officials in Ohio's most populous county might have to recount as many as nine races from the Nov. 6 election, rekindling fears over the accuracy of electronic voting machines.


The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections says the official record of votes in an electronic touch-screen machine is a paper printout resembling the tapes in cash registers. Those records are fragile and are sometimes damaged and unreadable, making votes ineligible and recounts difficult.


The Board of Elections is scheduled to certify the Nov. 6 election results Wednesday. At least 3,200 provisional ballots and 5,500 absentee ballots must be added to about 195,000 votes already counted. State law mandates a recount if the margin of victory is one-half of 1 percent or less. Preliminary results show there are nine extremely close races.


The most high-profile potential recount is the Lyndhurst mayor's race, in which incumbent Joseph Cicero is just 16 votes ahead of challenger Tim Toma, based on unofficial results.


"If it comes down to a recount, we definitely will have our observers there to do everything we can to make sure it goes right," Toma said.


The county has had difficulties adapting to electronic voting since the May 2006 primary. Nearly 10 percent of official ballots in that election were destroyed, blank, illegible or otherwise compromised, a study ordered last year by county commissioners found.


This year, two races already have been recounted by the county after paper jams rendered the paper printout record of some votes unreadable. In both, the results were unchanged. Six votes were unreadable in a recount of an Oct. 2 primary election in Seven Hills, and two more were lost in a re-count of an Aug. 7 election in Strongsville.


Although the arrival of electronic voting has made the recount process murkier, President Jeff Hastings said he is confident in the board's procedures. The county has seen worse: in November 2005, a race for Pepper Pike council was tied and decided by a coin flip.


If enough votes from the Nov. 6th election are unreadable, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office would be responsible for recreating a paper trail of votes.


Brunner issued a statewide directive on recounts Friday, but there were nothing specific on how to recreate ballots that are destroyed by paper jams.


Brunner spokesman Patrick Gallaway said the office is keeping an eye on the issue. Eight other races would be recounted based on unofficial results, elections officials said: Beachwood City Council, at-large; Bedford Heights Charter Review Commission; Garfield Heights City Council, Ward 4; North Royalton City Council, Ward 6; Olmsted Falls City Council, at-large; Cuyahoga Heights Village Council; Solon school board; and Strongsville school board.


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