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LaRose Places Franklin County Board of Elections Under Administrative Oversight

As a result of a failure by the Franklin County Board of Elections to effectively follow a remediation plan as provided by the Ohio Secretary of State, e-pollbooks failed once again to work properly this past Election Day. Consequentially, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is placing the Franklin County Board of Elections on Administrative Oversight.

Administrative Oversight will require the board to report weekly to the Secretary’s office to ensure the board is effectively administering elections. This will allow the Secretary’s office to set achievable goals and enforce accountability to ensure the board reaches the standard required of the voters they serve.

On Election Day, November 2nd, 2021, a voter, hereafter referred to as Voter A, informed the Secretary of State’s office of an experience at a voting location where Voter A was able to vote, despite Voter A knowing they had already voted during the early vote period. Voter A was accompanying their spouse on Election Day and was informed by the poll worker that the e-pollbook did not list Voter A as having voted during the early voting period. Voter A expressed a concern that their ballot was not properly counted during the Early Voting period, and that led Voter A to cast their ballot again on Election Day. While every ballot cast does have a paper trail, ballots are anonymous, meaning there was no way to determine which ballot belongs to voter A. Because of this, both votes of Voter A were counted in the unofficial results released on Election Night.

E-pollbooks are used to check-in voters and determine if a voter had already cast a ballot or requested an absentee ballot. If a voter is listed as having voted or requested an absentee ballot, a voter is not allowed to cast a regular ballot. If a voter claims they have not already voted, but are still listed as having voted, they are to be given a provisional ballot.

Upon learning of this situation, Secretary LaRose ordered an immediate inquiry into the matter. So far, the investigation has determined the following:

  • On October 26th, the Franklin County Board of Elections began the process of securing and packing the e-pollbooks that would be used on Election Day. Prior to packing, all e-pollbooks were loaded with voter history data through October 25th. Voter history data provides poll workers with the knowledge of whether a voter voted during the early voting period or requested an absentee ballot.

  • Upon the completion of the early voting period at 2pm on Monday, November 1st, the Franklin County Board of Elections collected and processed the data of all voters who voted early or requested an absentee ballot between October 26th and the end of the early voting period. That afternoon, the county board sent that data to KnowInk, their vendor that manages the software used on e-pollbooks. KnowInk is then tasked with sending the updated voter history records to all e-pollbooks so they have the most updated voter history data and ensure that no voter can vote twice.

  • At approximately 6:00am on November 2nd, KnowInk sent the updated voter history data to the e-pollbooks over a secure connection to the approximately 1,700 e-pollbooks utilized by the Franklin County Board of Elections. These updates are supposed to automatically occur when the e-pollbook is turned on. If the update does not automatically occur, the e-pollbook must be updated manually by the poll worker. While many e-pollbooks did update with the final voter history records, not all were properly updated. This is what caused for Voter A to not have a record of their vote during the early voting period.

  • The Franklin County Board of Elections either did not have a process in place to determine if all e-pollbooks were properly updated with the final voter history data, or if they did have a process, they failed to follow it properly.

  • The Franklin County Board of Elections’ investigation has determined that only three voters were able to vote twice. This issue did not impact the outcome of any election in which these three voters voted twice.

  • Additionally, our office has been informed by the Franklin County Board of Elections that a second voter was told by another individual with knowledge of this e-pollbook issue to attempt to cast a second vote, despite the knowledge that this voter had already cast her ballot during the early voting period. Our office has instructed the county board to work with the county prosecutor to determine if any criminal charges should be recommended.

  • The investigation is currently working with both KnowInk and the Franklin County Board of Elections to determine how many e-pollbooks failed to update and why that occurred. While there are no indications this situation happened anywhere else, the Secretary’s office will also be working with other counties that utilize e-pollbooks to ensure all procedures were executed properly.

On Election Day last year, the Franklin County Board of Elections failed when the e-pollbooks used at voting locations did not properly update with all voter history data. In order to protect the integrity of the election, Secretary LaRose ordered the board of elections to utilize the paper backup that included all voter history for the 2020 general election. In response to this failure, the Franklin County Board of Elections developed a remediation plan designed to ensure such a failure wouldn’t happen again. The Franklin County Board of Elections failed to follow that plan, leading once again to the Franklin County Board of Elections imperiling the integrity of elections for the voters they serve.

“Being able to quickly identify this failure by the Franklin County Board of Elections that allowed for three improperly cast votes is proof that Ohio’s elections work and are secure,” said LaRose. “To be clear, even one illegal vote is one too many, and we will ensure that the members of the Franklin County Board of Elections are held accountable.”

It's important to reinforce that while a secure connection is utilized to update voter history data in e-Pollbooks that allow voters to be quickly checked in at their voting location, at no time are voting machines connected to any internet network. Additionally, procedures are in place at the county board of elections to protect the integrity of the voter registration system, including voter ID requirements, signature requirements, and more. A full post-election audit after the 2020 general election indicated a statewide 99.98% accuracy rate. As with all elections, a post-election audit of the November 2nd, 2021 election will occur after the board of election certifies the official election results. You can read our Election Security Fact Sheet by clicking here.

You can read the letter placing the Franklin County Board of Elections on Administrative Oversight by clicking here.

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Rob Nichols
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