Franklin County examines 2020 Election, looks to future changes

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – With the 2020 election in the rearview, the Franklin County Board of Elections is bracing for several changes in 2021.

Thursday, the board was conducting its post-election audit to make sure all equipment and procedures worked properly. It was one of the final loose ends to tie on the election cycle.

“It’s been an incredible year. We’re certainly glad it’s been completed and we’re putting it to a bookend,” said public information officer Aaron Sellers.

Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners approved $2.5 million in funding for the Board of Elections to cover the costs of several things, including replacing the voter registration database and eventually replacing the county’s poll pads.

Sellers explained the current voter registration system is 15 years old and increasingly costly to maintain. The board will be rolling out a new database ahead of the May 2021 Primary Election.

On Election Day 2020, some polling locations experienced long lines when the electronic poll pads, used to scan voters’ IDs and find their voter information, were unable to download the large file.

“The reason why we went to paper the morning of the election was associated with the inability to manage the amount of data that was associated with unprecedented voting activity,” explained Franklin County administrator Kenneth Wilson.

During the budget discussions, the commissioners praised the Board of Elections for its safety adaptations and ability to process record turnout, but they also questioned the poll pad glitch and an absentee ballot mistake which sent nearly 50,000 ballots to the wrong addresses during early voting.

“They would want to do a review of the situation to figure out how and why those things happened to avoid those things happening in the future,” said Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady.

Sellers explained a post-election review is standard procedure and said the Board of Elections has been closely monitoring both issues and communicating with its vendors about solutions.

“I don’t know if there are such things as perfect elections, but certainly we’re doing everything we can in our after action meetings that we do after every election to make things better,” he said.

In addition to its post-election evaluation, the Board of Elections is also looking to hire a new director. Current director Ed Leonard is leaving his post to join newly elected county prosecutor Gary Tyack. The board hopes to fill the vacant position by the end of January.

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