Delaware County’s Director of Elections Committee Karla Herron wants voters to know that the board has been strictly following a number of precautions to prevent electoral fraud and has been doing so for years.
The emphasis on electoral security preceded allegations of election fraud during the 2020 elections, she said, and instead stems from the tight and hotly contested 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
That race – which included a Florida statewide recount and a US Supreme Court ruling – raised voter safety awareness in the 2004 presidential race that followed, she said.
It’s a consciousness Herron said she kept emphasizing, first during her seven years on the Union County electoral board and now in her 13 years in Delaware County.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s office issues guidelines on policy during elections, but it is up to local electoral boards to decide how to implement them, Herron said.
In Delaware County, she said, this involves strict and meticulous adherence to what she calls the “chain” that each vote goes through.
During that process, she said, electronic polls are isolated from any threat of online hacking. Votes are not edited or edited by individuals, but rather by two election workers – a Republican and a Democrat – at all stages of the election night process.
The electoral committee uses a similar layered approach with absentee voting – each processed by a Republican and a Democrat – and in confirming voter identity, she said.
“When it comes to safety, I think we’ve worked very hard in the past and continue to work to make sure everything is safe,” said Herron.
Several precautionary measures during an election require additional resources and “we will keep adding resources. No matter how busy we are, we have to do our job and do it well. We can’t cut corners, ”she said.
Since the procedures have been in place for so long, we “really didn’t do anything differently in the 2020 presidential election,” said Herron.
“But what we did is we focused on (voting security),” she said. “We highlighted it. We talked about it because our constituents heard so much about elections.”
In Delaware County, the electoral committee has nothing to hide, Herron said.
If other states treat their electoral practices with silence and defensively, “that will only fuel the fire. We want to be open and transparent,” she said.
She described how votes run through the chain of custody on an election day:
• No electronic devices that process polls are connected to the Internet. “We are eliminating any possibility” of hacking, Herron said.
• The electoral committee provides the polling stations with empty USB sticks for downloading the voting totals. These USB sticks are brought to the polling station on US Route 23 by a Republican and a Democrat driving together in the same vehicle from a polling station.
• In the election office, the drives are downloaded to a computer located in a designated “board room”. The room has a locking system that allows only one Republican and one Democrat to enter at the same time. The non-partisan couples work together to cast all of the votes from the polling stations.
Postal ballot use has increased in recent years and has reached an all-time high in Delaware County in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Herron said.
Like the USB sticks and the computer for the tabular room, every single postal ballot is processed by a non-partisan pair of election workers, said Herron.
She also said:
• Voter registration, signature and date of birth are checked for every request for a postal vote. If applicants fail to provide the required information, they will be notified by email and given the opportunity to correct the error.
• All identity information is re-verified by non-partisan couples when absentee votes are cast. The serial numbers of the ballot papers are assigned to the applications.
• All postal ballot papers that do not meet all requirements will be defaced and not counted.
Herron said that Delaware had far fewer tentative votes in the 2020 presidential election compared to the 2016 presidential election.
Votes are classified as provisional if, for example, the voter does not register a name or address change with the electoral board, cannot identify himself or is confronted with a challenge of residence, said Herron.
Many or most of the preliminary votes could be prevented if voters notify the board of directors of a change of address, she said, adding that such notification can also come when visiting an office of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Herron said the electoral committee even has a system to prevent the names of the dead from being used in fraudulent votes.
The Ohio Department of Health issues lists of electoral boards each month identifying residents who have died in Ohio, she said. Names can also be struck off the electoral roll if the family presents a death certificate to the board.
The electoral committee also has a process to remove voters from its lists if they miss four federal elections – held in even years, for the president or for the U.S. House and Senate – and fail to respond to one email Reply notification, said Herron.
Registration can be maintained by voting on the ballot box, voting by post, updating registration or signing an election-related petition, she said.
At the November 4th meeting of Delaware County Commissioners, Commissioner Gary Merrell said he was an election worker during the November 2nd election.
“The place I am, the election officials, whether Democrats or Republicans, they work very well together,” Merrell said.