Franklin County, Ohio, Switches to Paper Pollbooks After Technical Difficulties With Voting Data

Ohio's Franklin County switched to paper pollbooks after experiencing technical difficulties early on Election Day—a move that could slow down voting in the state's most populous county.

Franklin County, which consists mostly of the state capital Columbus, has been using electronic pollbooks for some years. Electronic records allow poll workers to check in voters faster at their polling locations.

But after problems uploading all of its early in-person voting data into their electronic check-in system, the Franklin County Board of Elections decided to switch to using the backup paper pollbooks early Tuesday.

On Twitter, the Franklin County Board of Elections said it made the switch to ensure no-one is able to vote twice. "The Franklin County Board of Elections will be using its backup paper poll books to check in voters today," the board wrote.

The Franklin County Board of Elections will be using its backup paper poll books to check in voters today. This is why we have contingency plans in place and the process is working. We decided to go with the backup paper poll books to ensure that one voter can only cast one vote.

— Franklin Co. Boe (@FranklinCoBOE) November 3, 2020

"This is why we have contingency plans in place and the process is working. We decided to go with the backup paper poll books to ensure that one voter can only cast one vote."

Aaron Sellers, the public information officer for the Franklin County Board of Elections, told Newsweek that officials attempted to update the electronic file containing data about who voted early may have been too big to be uploaded.

He explained the latest data is needed to ensure that voters who have already cast ballots aren't able to vote again.

This morning we learned that the Franklin County Board of Elections was not able to upload all early in-person voting data into their electronic check-in system. Because of this, they are shifting to paper pollbooks to check-in voters today. 1/3

— Ohio Secretary of State Comms Team (@SecLaRoseComms) November 3, 2020

Because officials could not guarantee that the entire voter file was on the electronic pollbooks, they decided to switch to paper.

"We were having problems uploading that information to our pollbooks and so at 5.30 in the morning, because we couldn't guarantee that 100 percent of the files were downloading, we went ahead and used our backup contingency plan, which is our paper pollbooks," Sellers said.

He said that the switch to paper records may slow down voting "just a little bit." But he added that the record numbers of people who cast their ballots during the state's 28-day early voting period may limit congestion at polling places on Election Day.

More than 350,000 ballots—in-person early votes as well as returned mail-in ballots—have already been cast in Franklin County, Sellers added. The county has more than 800,000 registered voters.

"With the huge turnout that we've already had, polling locations may not be as busy as they would, so that will help," he said.

"Our poll workers are trained on the backup paper poll books. I guess it could take us a little bit more time, but I don't think that it's going to affect things significantly," he added.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office on Twitter added that the issue "does NOT impact voting machines in any way, and only modifies how voters are checked in."

"This morning we learned that the Franklin County Board of Elections was not able to upload all early in-person voting data into their electronic check-in system," LaRose's office tweeted. "Because of this, they are shifting to paper pollbooks to check-in voters today."

Franklin County Voters: Keep calm, stay in line. #YourVoteMatters https://t.co/bZcF9ZQumV

— ACLU of Ohio (@acluohio) November 3, 2020

LaRose's office added that he had "directed every board of elections to have paper pollbooks as a contingency plan to ensure the integrity of the system and so no voter may vote twice. It will not impact the security or accuracy of today's vote."

The switch prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio to post a tweet urging voters to "keep calm" and "stay in line."

Franklin County
People register for early voting inside of the of the Franklin County Board of Elections Office in Columbus, Ohio, on October 6, 2020. Ty Wright/Getty Images