A rat’s nest of voting machine printouts littering the ground and taped to the doorway of an Oakwood church seemed suspicious over the weekend, prompting questions as to whether voter anonymity had been breached four days after more than 900 people cast ballots there.
But what at first seemed alarming to one Oakwood resident is a messy reality that keeps votes secret but ensures a fair accounting of ballots, said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
ELECTION 2018: Primary results for local primary election 2018
“Those are the totals printout for each machine,” Harsman said Monday. “It is a requirement under law … It does cause some confusion. ”
An Oakwood resident took photos Saturday morning outside the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, 155 E. Thruston Blvd., where Oakwood precincts A, B and F voted in last week’s primary election.
The man thought the printouts were from the spooled paper that verifies ballots cast on Montgomery County’s direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines.
“It didn’t feel normal with the tape indiscriminately outside and the ballots at the bottom in a bunch of dirty leaves,” said the man who contacted the Dayton Daily News. “It was the same tape that prints when you cast your ballot. I wondered if it was a prank or vandalism.”
It was neither indiscriminate nor nefarious, Harsman said.
“The totals tape is the total of all the votes added up together for each machine,” he said. “That’s what’s posted at the precinct, not the individual way you vote.”
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The tape that records the ballots cast, which can’t be linked individuals, goes directly into a canister and is pulled out only for an official recount or audit, he said.
But three copies of a different report, the totals tape, are made by each machine, Harsman said.
On Election Day, the polling location at the church was set up with 18 DRE machines, according to Board of Elections records. Because voters in three precincts share the machines, each machine generates a report for each precinct. The nature of a primary election, with the possibility of four different ballots being voted on each machine also adds to the length of reports, Harsman said.
“It does look like a lot of paper and a lot of results, but that’s the way the system was certified back in 2005,” he said.
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While two copies of the totals report are returned to the elections board on election night, the third is posted overnight at the entrance of each of the county’s 173 polling locations. Typically, the totals results are placed in a window at the entrance or nearby inside if the building has 24-hour entry, Harsman said.
But to give people access to timely results, often much easier to get now online, the printouts sometimes must be placed outside a polling location.
Harsman said the board asks those in charge of the facilities to remove the results the next day, but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes building managers will call later and ask if it’s OK to take down the reports.
“They are simply trash at that point,” Harsman said.
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