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Problems from old voting equipment slow Montgomery County recounts

Mandatory recounts of three local elections will drag into Thursday and possibly Friday because of the large number of ballots cast and troubles arising from aging voting equipment.

“As a result of the machines getting older, we have definitely more printing errors,” said Jan Kelly, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

MORE: Ohio set record for early voting in November election

A month out from the voting, about 30 elections board workers are poring over paper ballots and trying to read the printouts — some undecipherable — from the machines used at randomly picked precincts representing five percent of the votes cast in the close races.

Automatic recounts began Tuesday morning for the 43rd Ohio House District seat, Montgomery County clerk of courts and an 8-mill Riverside roads levy.

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The recounts will likely remove the last bit of doubt lingering from the Nov. 6 election results that show Republican Rep. J. Todd Smith returning to the Statehouse, Republican Mike Foley becoming the new Montgomery County clerk of courts and the Riverside roads levy failing.

While the printouts might be illegible, the votes remain on the memory cards, Kelly said. But rerunning the cards requires approval of the elections board, which won’t come until a meeting Thursday afternoon.

The 43rd House District also includes voters in Preble County, which was expected to complete its recount Wednesday afternoon.

RELATED: Local Republicans score wins after last votes counted for 2 races

The Montgomery County results may not be known until late Thursday or Friday morning, Kelly said.

State law requires a recount if the final margin is equal to or less than a half of a percent of total votes cast. While the provisional ballot count triggered automatic recounts, recounts rarely change an outcome, election officials said.

Smith held a 462-vote margin after counting on Election Day, which narrowed to 137 votes over Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley, a Democrat, in the final canvass.

MORE: Smith/Foley battle for Ohio’s 43rd district seat remains undecided

Mike Foley, who is no relation to Dan Foley, received 741 more votes than Democrat Russ Joseph in a clerk of courts race receiving 202,465 votes altogether.

Riverside voters rejected the roads levy by 83 votes, also triggering a recount.

Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted notified county boards of elections they may begin the process of acquiring new voting equipment through the state’s Voting Equipment Acquisition Program. A total of $104.5 million in funding for counties was made available for voting equipment by legislation enacted earlier this year.

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