Ohio Vote Audit Turns Up Duplicates, Deletions

One person, one vote. That's how the democratic process should work. But a recent audit of the 2006 general election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, found that some votes were counted twice, and others were deleted. Candice Hoke, who oversaw the independent audit, explains some of its findings.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

And now, to Ohio, where the election process has been under scrutiny in recent years. Just last month, two election officials were sentenced to 18 months in prison for rigging a 2004 presidential recount. The two worked for Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland.

Candace Hoke directs the Center for Election Integrity in Cleveland. She recently oversaw an audit of Cuyahoga County's 2006 general election. The audit's results were released this past week and shed light on problems that can occur with modern voting technology like the optical scanning of ballots.

Ms. CANDACE HOKE (Director, Center for Election Integrity): Some ballot batches had been scanned and put into the database twice, so they had effectively been counted twice. And others had been scanned and then deleted because there was some flaw in the data transfer to the central computer, and weren't rescanned.

ELLIOTT: Most voters in the Cleveland area cast their ballots electronically on touch-screen voting machines, and the audit reveals problems with those as well. Chief among them: the machine's poor printing quality.

Ms. HOKE: The touch-screen voting devices have a paper trail, and those paper trails are prone to illegibility, being torn, unusable. And for an auditor, even for the voters to be able to see them clearly to check if the ballot is printing correctly and therefore a correct representation of their vote, that problem - the problem of damaged paper trails - runs through eight to 13 percent of the touch-screen voting units.

ELLIOTT: And that means that eight to 13 percent of the votes can't be audited. But problems aside, Candace Hoke takes the long view.

Ms. HOKE: Doing an audit like this, even with what appears to be bad news, is actually good news. It means we are identifying problems so we can fix them. We all need to start developing an attitude in election administration reviews that we are going to find problems, but we are going to look seriously, honestly, fully, so that we can fix the problems.

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ELLIOTT: Candace Hoke is director of the Center for Election Integrity in Cleveland.

Coming up on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, the perils of political satire in Afghanistan.

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