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New system, software error stalled election results in Cuyahoga, Summit counties

A hand holds an Ohio Voted sticker outside a polling site
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
A new system and a software error caused confusion for voters and candidates waiting for election results Tuesday night.

Some voters and candidates were confused by slow and sometimes misleading election results being shared online Tuesday night. In Cuyahoga County, election results came in slower than voters expected, taking until 4:40 a.m. on Wednesday for all the races to be updated, according to the board of election's website. The Summit County Board of Elections had issues with its live election results, ultimately having to take down the page altogether.

Voters were voting on two statewide issues and a myriad of local races and issues. In Cleveland, this included the contentious Issue 38, or People's Budget, which would have allocated a portion of the city's budget for citizen's to decide how to spend. In Summit County, Akron voters weighed in on city council seats. They also elected Shammas Malik mayor, a race that was more of a formality as Malik faced no Republican opposition on the general election ballot following his win the Democratic primary in May.

New system slowed down the count in Cuyahoga County

Slow election results in Cuyahoga County were due to a new system the board of election started this election, according to a statement from Director Anthony Perlatti. In previous years, the board only had to capture voting totals when scanning ballots, which made for quicker tabulating and reporting. Starting this election, the board has to capture images of all ballots scanned in addition to the voting totals.

Tuesday night, the board had to capture both voting totals and images for approximately one million ballots, which led to a lengthier processing time. Perlatti wrote that no problem exists with the system and that the board will be working with its voting equipment vendor to find a faster solution.

In addition to slow results, some polling places, including in Lakewood and Valley View, ran out of ballots near the end of the day. The board orders ballots based on past Election Day turnout, Perlatti explained. He used Valley View as an example of a polling place which exceeded voter turnout expectations, although Outreach Department Manager Mike West said this can be applied to any polling place that ran out of ballots.

Using data from the election in November 2022 and August 2023, which had turnouts of 687 and 609 respectively, the board ordered 775 ballots for Valley View, according to Perlatti. However, Valley View had "unprecedented" turnout for an odd year general election, he wrote, with 834 people casting votes. Poll workers helped voters use accessible voting machines to print additional ballots until more ballots were delivered, Perlatti explained.

At least three more polling places had similar issues, according to West, who added the board will be reviewing these instances later in the week.

Website issues plagued Summit County

A software error was to blame for the Summit County Board of Election's website causing some confusion for voters and candidates Tuesday night, deputy director Pete Zeigler said Wednesday.

At one point in the evening, the county’s overall unofficial results reflected only 4% of precincts reporting results countywide, while the individual contests were indicating 100% of precincts reporting.

The board’s website vendor labeled the percentages incorrectly, Zeigler said.

“The results were all processed and reported accurately, just some of the labeling on the website was mislabeled,” Zeigler said. “It’s just a vendor issue in terms of handling the website.”

The error caused confusion for voters following the results and candidates including Tina Boyes, who eventually won the city council race for Ward 9.

The board eventually took down the interactive page from its website and uploaded a PDF of the results, which is how they previously reported results before contracting with the vendor, Zeigler added.

“That’s how we were able to implement it so quickly; we basically reverted to our old processes,” Zeigler said.

The board’s information technology department is working with the vendor to fix the issue, he said.

“Hopefully we’ll figure out what the root of the issues were so that they aren’t repeated in the future,” Zeigler said

Voter turnout strong in both counties

Cuyahoga County saw a 45% voter turnout, down from 47.39% in 2022, according to the board of elections.

Despite the drop, Perlatti wrote that the election was well attended, with almost 400,000 ballots cast.

In Summit County, voter turnout was 51.5%, down from 54% last year. This November’s election was considered an “off-year” because there were no gubernatorial or midterm races.

Summit County’s turnout was “strong,” Zeigler said.

“The statewide issues really drove strong turnout for an off-year,” Zeigler said.

Statewide Issue 1, which enshrined abortion into the state’s constitution, and Issue 2, which legalized recreational marijuana, seemed to drive voters to the polls more than any of the local issues, he added.

Zeigler pointed out that the biggest candidate race in the county was for Akron mayor, but Malik ran uncontested aside from write-ins.

Corrected: November 9, 2023 at 12:30 PM EST
This story has been updated to correct a misspelling.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.