Poll workers will not be allowed to take voting machines home for safekeeping in the days before the November presidential election because the practice known as "sleepovers" is an unacceptable security risk, the state elections chief said Tuesday.
Taking machines home makes it nearly impossible to keep track of what happens to a machine or memory card once it goes into the custody of a poll worker, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said.
The changes are meant to address actual security concerns — including the fear that machines could be tampered with — and national perceptions of Ohio's election system, which has come under fire in recent years, Brunner said.
"We want Ohio's voters and the rest of the nation to see that we have prepared a transparent process of transporting voting equipment, ballots and supplies," Brunner said in a statement.
Brunner was elected in 2006 with a promise to improve a system marred by scattered problems of long lines and poorly trained poll workers.
Twenty-four of Ohio's 88 counties have used sleepovers. Local election officials argued that the practice makes it easier to transport machines to polling sites. Otherwise, they would have to hire moving companies to distribute the machines at a cost of thousands of dollars.
Brunner said federal money will reimburse counties for the added cost, which she expects to be about $100,000 statewide. Elections officials also will be allowed to transport and store the machines at polling places ahead of time, provided the sites have fire protection equipment and other security measures.
Ohio uses voting machines made by Election Systems & Software, Hart Intercivic and Diebold unit Premier Election Solutions.
Counties may also set up regional storage locations where poll workers can pick up machines on the morning of Election Day and take them to polling locations.
Local officials, who have clashed with Brunner on a number of election procedure issues, were pleased that Brunner gave them the option of moving the equipment as they saw fit.
"She allowed for the counties to implement their own way of doing this," said Shannon Leininger, director of the Ashland County Board of Elections. The county has used sleepovers for both paper ballots and its 204 touch-screen voting machines.