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Ohio Voting Machines Under Fire

by Cara Rinkoff, published

Voting rights activists are concerned about new software installed on Ohio voting machines in 39 of 88 counties in the state. As a swing state that could will determine the election, activists are worried about the features and implications of the software. The precincts using the software cater to an estimated four million potential voters.

According to the Free Press, internal memos from senior staff in the office of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted confirm the installation of “experimental” software patches. Election Counsel Brandi Laser Seske sent out a memo on Friday, saying the software did not need to be reviewed by the Board of Voting Machine Examiners because it is not “involved in the tabulation or casting of ballots...or a modification to a certified system.”

According to The Cleveland Leader, Matt McClellan, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said no patches were installed. However, in the statement, McClellan said the installation involved a reporting tool software “meant to assist counties and to help them simplify the process by which they report the results to our system.” He also added the software is only considered "experimental" because “it is a pilot project that we’re doing with about 25 counties or so. So it’s not statewide, but it is a pilot project we’re trying.”

The contract between Hunsted and Election Systems & Software, LLC, obtained by The Columbus Free Press, confirms the update has “not been submitted to a Voting Systems Testing Laboratory (VSTL) because the Secretary of State “is requiring only functional testing” of the system, and it “will not require federal or state certification...for use in any election in Ohio.”

Ohio law allows the experimental use of voting equipment as long as it is restricted to a limited number of precincts. It can be used legally without certification.

Yesterday, a Columbus Dispatch poll reported President Obama leads Mitt Romney in Ohio, 50 to 48 percent, with a margin of error of 2.2 percent. Before the presidential debates, Obama led by nine points, yet Romney has been able to catch up significantly after rigorous campaigning efforts in that state.

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