Franklin County, Ohio Forced to Ditch Electronic Pollbooks After Surge in Early Voting

Franklin County, Ohio Forced to Ditch Electronic Pollbooks After Surge in Early Voting
Voters arrive for early voting in Columbus in Franklin County, Ohio. (Photo: Ty Wright, Getty Images)

Franklin County, the largest county in Ohio, has moved back to paper ballots after unprecedented levels of early voting created data files too large to sync with the hard drives of electronic pollbooks, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The pollbooks have been used for years, according to the Dispatch, but the surge in absentee and early voting this year (a record-shattering 3.4 million) meant that voting officials weren’t able to download last-minute updates before Nov. 3.

Franklin County Board of Elections director Ed Leonard told the Dispatch that 350,982 of the county’s 833,000 registered voters had cast early votes and election officials “can’t guarantee all the data would be there for all the most recent absentee activity.” Instead, poll workers will use paper records to check identification. That slows down processing at the polls but is not anticipated to be a major problem as it is how elections were run in the past, Leonard told the paper.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office tweeted that the issue affects only the check-in process, not voting machines.

The county’s pollbook provider, KnowInk, was fingered by Los Angeles County officials as one of the root causes of glacially slow lines during California’s March 3, 2020 primary election. Issues flagged by L.A. County officials included lengthy delays synchronizing the tablets, voters incorrectly told to cast provisional ballots, a bug that made it impossible to search for registered voters by their street and house number, and general glitchy behaviour.