Shelby County is last in Ohio to work with VOTEC

By Kyle Shaner - [email protected]

SIDNEY – The Shelby County Board of Elections, which is the last in Ohio to use the vendor VOTEC Corp. for its electronic poll books, is considering its options to update the technology.

Deputy Director Collin Claywell said Champaign County recently stopped using VOTEC for its e-poll books, leaving Shelby County as the final county in the state still working with that company. The e-poll books contain a list of eligible voters and help election officials verify voters’ eligibility at polling locations.

“To me that raises a very legitimate and serious concern in terms of support, no matter how much money we may have saved in the past,” Chairman Jim Kerg said. “If they’re not here – we’re the only county in Ohio they’re servicing – it explains to me why you might have had some problems recently in getting things accomplished.”

Along with the concerns about servicing, Shelby County has had technological issues with the VOTEC machines, leading the elections officials to consider their options. Before the e-poll books could be replaced, funding would have to be secured.

Kenneth Henning, regional liaison for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said other counties also have asked about funding for new e-poll books. He’s suggested they contact their local representatives as they’re in the process of working on the state’s capital budget.

Shelby County officials plan to reach out to state Reps. Susan Manchester and Nino Vitale and also the Shelby County commissioners.

In other news, the Shelby County Board of Elections used all of its Help America Vote Act grant funds. With upgrades from the funding, the board office is in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Through the HAVA grant, the board added an automatic door to the front of its office, made the back entrance more accessible and improved the parking lot on the east side of the office.

The board would like to make improvements to the west parking lot as well but is waiting on the county to complete retaining wall work, which likely will be done in September.

The board approved $24,493.59 in chargebacks to the Houston Joint Ambulance District and Sidney City Schools. Chargebacks are the partial reimbursement for the cost of hosting a special election, money that will go to the county.

“Sidney City Schools obviously is bearing most of the cost,” Director Pam Kerrigan said, noting Sidney City Schools had 19 precincts open for the May election while the Houston Joint Ambulance District had four precincts open.

Claywell surveyed the polling election officials who worked during the May special election. There was an 82.1% response rate, and all of the respondents said they would serve again.

The poll workers said they appreciated hands-on training. The top areas they thought they needed to focus on more in training were provisional voting, voting equipment operation and set up, and opening and closing of the polls.

During the May election, there was congestion issues with workers returning non-critical materials at the end of election night.

“We were fine with ballot security, but beyond that it was a real mess,” Kerg said.

Claywell said discussions would begin Monday on how to improve the process for future elections.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s Office has made a $500 grant available, which has to be spent by June 30. Kerrigan and Claywell said they’d like to purchase shelving that could help make the process of returning elections supplies easier.

Kerrigan and Claywell recently attended the Ohio Secretary of State 2021 Summer Conference. Claywell made a presentation during the conference about Shelby County’s use of HAVA grant funds for projects to make the board’s office ADA compliant.

Claywell and Kerrigan also recently attended Registered Election Official training.

Abbie Ragan, a member of the Sidney City Schools class of 2022, is an intern for the Board of Elections this summer. She’s been a Youth at the Booth worker twice during past elections. She plans to study political science and pre-law at the University of Toledo and is considering a career in elections.

The board decided to move its September meeting up one week to 10 a.m. Sept. 13.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 19.

By Kyle Shaner

[email protected]

Reach the writer at [email protected] or 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at [email protected] or 937-538-4824.