This November, voting in Brown County will go almost completely electronic.

Everyone voting in person this year — early and on Election Day — will use electronic voting machines, Brown County Clerk Brenda Woods said.

Electronic machines have been available in past elections, but this will be the first year paper ballots will not be an option for in-person voting.

The poll book — which voters sign before voting — will also be electronic, Woods said.

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Voters who wish to use a paper ballot can still have an absentee ballot mailed to them, Woods said.

However, those voting by mail must request a ballot from the county clerk’s office by Monday, Oct. 31.


The Brown County Election Board decided Aug. 17 to switch completely to electronic voting to avoid compliance issues with the machines that scan paper ballots.

The scanning machines are not compliant with recent changes to state law, Woods said. As a result, it is possible that voters could have a vote not counted, or that a manual “work-around” might not comply with state law.

The problem centers around what is known as an “overvote,” Woods said. An overvote is when someone votes for multiple candidates for a single open seat, either accidentally or on purpose.

One example would be if someone voted straight-party, but then went down the ballot and voted for a person from another party in one of the races. It can also happen if someone votes for more candidates in an at-large race than there are available seats.

Under state law, an overvote in any partisan race voids all partisan votes on that ballot, Woods said.

However, the change in state law that removed at-large races from straight-ticket voting did not revise one paragraph, Woods said. That oversight creates the potential for overvote ballots to be incorrectly tabulated by the machines that scan them.

That possibility could leave the county open for a lawsuit if the outcome of any race is contested, Woods said.

{span style=”text-decoration: underline;” data-mce-mark=”1”}Advantages

There are some advantages to going completely electronic, including making voting easier for people with visual impairments, Woods said. The electronic machines have headphones and a tactile pad for such voters.

Unlike voting with paper ballots — where another person’s assistance may be required — someone who is partially or completely blind can keep their vote completely private when voting electronically.

When the system for the visually impaired is in use, the screen stays black, so even if someone is standing beside the voter, they cannot see how they are voting, Woods said.

It is also not possible to accidentally or intentionally vote for more candidates than there are open seats, Woods said.

And a voter can change their mind or correct a mistake before finalizing the ballot.

When an option is touched on the screen, a check mark appears next to it. If the voter taps it again, it unselects that candidate, and the voter can select a different option.

The machine also provides a summary of the ballot at the end for the voter to review. If they skipped voting on a race or ballot issue, that section is highlighted in red, and the voter can revisit it.

The machines also have options to increase the text size and change the contrast, Woods said.

The electronic poll books will also offer some advantages for the voter and the poll workers, Woods said.

Unlike the lists of names many voters are familiar with when getting their ballot issued, the electronic version allows for a voter’s name to be searched by typing it in or scanning their state ID or driver’s license.

This helps to address a variety of potential holdups, such as similar names, or voters going to the wrong precinct to try to vote.

If there is more than one “Bob Smith,” the poll worker can ask additional information, such as birth date, to confirm which one is voting.

If a voter goes to the wrong precinct, the electronic poll book can access the database and tell the poll worker what their correct precinct is, Woods said.

At the end of the night, poll workers will also have less work, as they will not have to count the total number of ballots or go through and count signatures in the poll book, Woods said. All that information will be tabulated by the machines as the voting takes place.

But if there is a recount, the ballots are retained anonymously in the machine’s memory and can be printed out, allowing them to be individually reviewed for irregularities, Woods said.


Woods said she has heard some people may be concerned over the electronic voting machines being hacked or interfered with.

The machines are not connected to any other computers or the internet at any time, Woods said. All information for the election is kept on a memory card that is inserted into the machine.

Once the machine is tested prior to the election, the door covering the memory card slot is sealed, she said.

Before that, all the machines are kept in a locked cage in the basement of the Law Enforcement Center.

Some voters may also be concerned they will have difficulty with a computerized ballot, Woods said. However, they are no more complicated to use than a bank ATM.

For those who want to see for themselves, the electronic voting machine and poll book will be available in Woods’ office at the courthouse up to Election Day, she said.

Woods also intends to bring the whole setup to the League of Women Voters’ candidate forums so voters can see how they work.


Switching to completely electronic voting will cost about $5,000 more than if paper ballots were used, Woods said.

While leasing an additional 29 machines will cost around $23,000, the county will save some money by not having to lease 13 of the ballot-counting machines and not having to print paper ballots, she said.

How it works

The voter hands a pollworker their state ID or gives them their name.

The poll worker scans the state ID or types in the name to perform a search.

Once the voter is found in the system, a card with a microchip is imprinted with the ballot information.

The voter takes the microchipped card to the voting booth and inserts it in the marked slot. When properly inserted, the card clicks into place.

The voter is given the option to change text size and contrast for readability. Visually impaired voters can request earphones and a touchpad with Braille labeling before going to the voting booth.

The machine takes the voter through each race or ballot issue one at a time. A button in the bottom right of the screen labeled “next” advances the screen.

Once the voter has advanced through all the screens, they are presented with a summary of their votes. If they skipped or have changed their mind on any race or ballot issue, they can tap on it and return to that point in the ballot.

Once the voter is done, they select the option to finalize their ballot.

After the machine records the anonymous ballot in its memory card, all information is erased from the voter’s microchipped card, which is returned to the poll workers to be reused.

The ballot cast by the voter is recorded on a memory card in a sealed compartment of the machine. No information identifying the voter is retained on the machine.

At the end of the night, all the votes from each machine are tallied on a printed tape.

On the Web

On, watch a video walk-through of how to use the new electronic voting machines from Brown County Clerk Brenda Woods.

Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.