With the exception of an issue with ballots in 10 precincts in Bryan and Montpelier — which was quickly remedied and did not affect results — Election Day in Williams County went smoothly, county election officials said.
A total of 6,553 of the county’s 24,290 total registered voters cast ballots in the off-year election, a 27 percent turnout.
Elections Director A.J. Nowaczyk said an issue was discovered when polls opened at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and ballots in those Bryan and Montpelier precincts were failing to scan. Those ballots, which were supposed to be 8.5 by 14 inches, were delivered from the county’s ballot printer, Midwest Direct, at 14 ½ inches and even 15 inches long.
Poll workers at the affected precincts took scissors and paper cutters to trim the ballots to the right size so they could be read by the optical scanners
“They failed to read because the optical scanners (that read the ballots) are set up to read at a certain point on the ballot. We isolated the problem quickly and fixed it quickly,” Nowaczyk said Tuesday, adding that all ballots were trimmed and re-fed into the scanners, ensuring all ballots were tabulated.
“We quickly recognized it was not an equipment problem. We called (Midwest Direct) and they’ve told us they are looking into it,” Nowaczyk said Wednesday.
The final precinct — in Pioneer — delivered its voting machines and flash drive around 9:30 and the final countywide results were available before 10 p.m.
“Except for the ballot issue, it was a very smooth, routine election,” Nowaczyk said Wednesday.
Elections board chairman Mark Fox credited the county’s new voting equipment.
Senate Bill 135, passed in June 2018, provided all 88 Ohio counties with more than $114 million to acquire new voting machines, software and tabulating equipment in time for this year’s election.
Williams County’s share was about $409,000 for new polling equipment, including touchscreen polling machines, ballot boxes, printers, workstations, batteries, scanners, software, privacy screens, booths, transport bags and associated warranties, all from Texas-based Hart Interactive, an elections solutions provider.
Of that total, Williams County was only responsible for about $14,791, and Fox said the investment paid off.
While the county continues to use paper ballots, the ballots are fed into an optical scanner that tabulates the voters’ choices onto a secure “V” drive (similar to a flash drive). The paper ballots drop into a secured bin to serve as a confirmation, while the V drive at each precinct is kept inside the scanner until they are delivered and uploaded into the county elections office secure elections server. Fox and Nowaczyk said once the V drive is uploaded onto the elections server, ballots were counted and tabulated on election night in a matter of seconds.
“It was much more streamlined, a lot less moving parts ... it was much easier to tabulate votes. I’m glad the state got it right,” said Fox, noting the system remains secure because it’s a self-contained, closed-loop system. “There is no internet connection whatsoever,” Fox said.
Statewide, about 35,000 poll workers helped Ohioans vote at nearly 3,700 polling locations. “Another successful election is in the books, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Tuesday, adding 7,689,091 Ohioans are registered to vote, and 252,789 voters had requested an absentee/early voting ballot by mail as of Tuesday.
LaRose noted that early voting lasted for 28 days in Ohio this season, well above the national average of 19 days, and Ohio is one of only 20 states that allow early voting on the Saturday before Election Day, and one of just five that allow for early voting on the Sunday before Election Day.
Williams County results announced Tuesday are unofficial. The county will conduct a final count, to include provisionals and late mail-in absentee votes, and will certify the results at its meeting Thursday, Nov. 21, at 3 p.m. at the elections office, 1425 E. High St., Suite 104, Bryan. The meeting is open to the public.
In one of the most closely watched races, incumbent Pioneer mayor Ed Kidston holds a 15-vote lead over challenger Al Kwader in unofficial election night results. Nowaczyk said per Ohio election law, a mandatory recount is triggered when the differential is within 0.5 percent of the total (447) votes cast, which appears unlikely, as that margin would be just two votes.
Breakdown of party affiliation of registered voters in Williams County:
No declared party: 13,562
Green Party: 20