Voting Equipment and Tabulation System Acquisition Process
Cuyahoga County currently employs a voting equipment and tabulation system that uses a combination of electronic and paper technology. Ballots are marked by voters and then scanned to have the votes tabulated. The use of physical paper ballots means that our elections are auditable, which provides an additional measure of security that is visible, reliable, and preferred by our voters. Our primary goal is always to provide accurate and verifiable election results.
Every 10-15 years, voting equipment needs to be replaced to keep up-to-date with technological advancements. Cuyahoga County’s current voting equipment, last purchased in 2009, is nearing the end of its recommended life cycle and is due to be replaced. As a result, in 2017 the Board of Elections began the years-long process to procure new voting equipment. This process is nearing the end and the Board of Elections plans to fully implement a new voting equipment and tabulation system (Clear Ballot) prior to the May 2, 2023 Primary Election.
Current Voting Equipment
Cuyahoga County’s current voting equipment and tabulation system was purchased from Election Systems & Software (ES&S) in 2009. For over 10 years, the equipment has been carefully maintained and software upgrades have been kept up-to-date to better provide a secure and efficient voting experience from start to finish. Our current system utilizes optical scanners, high-speed digital scanners, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) voting units, and election management system software, all purchased from ES&S.
Used at polling locations on Election Day to scan paper ballots.
Cuyahoga County owns 1,200 DS200 scanners.
Used to assist voters who cannot easily vote with a paper ballot.
Cuyahoga County owns 500 AutoMARK units.
Used for scanning vote-by-mail and provisional ballots.
Cuyahoga County owns seven DS850 scanners.
Electionware Election Management System
Used to create secure election databases, create and tabulate ballots, program voting equipment, and generate election reports.
Our current voting equipment from ES&S is certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency charged with assisting states and counties in conducting secure and reliable elections, and by the State of Ohio in accordance with Section 3506.05 of the Ohio Revised Code and the certification standards adopted by the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners. ES&S voting systems are also independently tested for integrity and security by federally accredited labs, such as the Idaho National Laboratory, a leading center for research and development in energy, national security, science, and technology.
The hardware and software of the voting system is protected from cyber and physical tampering through a variety of security measures, including the use of physical locks and tamper-resistant seals, routine equipment inspections, and the use of unique encryption keys to prevent manipulation of program and election data. Moreover, neither the ballot scanners nor the election management system itself are ever connected to the internet, ensuring that no hackers are able to access our systems remotely.
Learn more about our vendor ES&S
Learn more about the specific security measures ES&S utilizes to ensure the security of their products
Learn more about the U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Learn more about the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners’ Certification Standards
New Voting Equipment Funding
Ohio Senate Bill 135
In 2018, the Ohio legislature passed Ohio Senate Bill 135, which allocates funding to all 88 Ohio counties for the purchase of new voting systems. Counties will receive a base allocation determined by the Secretary of State, and an additional allocation based upon the number of registered voters in the county. Following this funding formula, Cuyahoga County will be receiving approximately $10.4 million. The Department of Administrative Services solicited pricing from tabulation vendors and released bid requirements based on input from the Secretary of State and the Voting Machine Acquisition Advisory Committee, a bipartisan committee of state and local officials created to advise and assist the Secretary of State during this process.
This legislation represents an important opportunity for Cuyahoga County to consider the different voting systems currently certified by the state of Ohio and determine which option is best suited for our county given the unique obstacles Cuyahoga County faces including our significant size and diverse voting population. By offsetting a cost that would ordinarily be borne by the county budget alone, the funding provided by the Ohio legislature will enable the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to replace our outdated voting equipment, upgrade our election management systems, and improve the overall voter experience.
Learn more about Ohio Senate Bill 135
Read the legislative text of Senate Bill 135
Read the Ohio Legislative Service Commission's Analysis of Senate Bill 135
Read the Cleveland.com article: “Ohio Lawmakers OK $114.5 million for New Voting Machines”
Available Certified Voting Systems
Cuyahoga County strives to be a national leader in election administration, and we are eager to take advantage of this opportunity to provide our voters with the most up-to-date and efficient voting system currently available. Our goal is to obtain the best in election software and security, improve election management, and enhance the voting experience with updated equipment. Before undertaking the implementation of a new voting system, the Board of Elections must first determine which vendor can best meet the needs of our county.
Currently, there are five tabulation systems certified for use in the state of Ohio:
Vendor Demonstration Day for Northeast Ohio Counties
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections hosted an Election Equipment Vendor Demonstration on Wednesday, December 6, 2017. The Boards of Elections of multiple counties located throughout northeast Ohio were invited to participate. Each of the five participating vendors was allotted one hour to provide a brief presentation followed by a Q&A session.
Initial Vendor Survey
Following the vendor demonstration day, we asked each vendor to complete an initial informational survey to aid in our review process. We received responses from three vendors: Clear Ballot, Election Systems and Software, and Hart InterCivic.
Individual Vendor Demonstrations for Cuyahoga County
The remaining three tabulation system vendors were invited to Cuyahoga County in January 2019 to demonstrate the functionality of their products. Demonstrations took place Tuesday, January 15th through Thursday, January 17th. Each vendor had one full day to present their tabulation system, both hardware and software. A link to the video of each vendor’s presentation is provided below.
The morning portion of the vendor’s demonstration was open to the public. This session covered an overview of the company, a security presentation, and a physical demonstration of the polling location ballot scanners and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) voting equipment to be used on Election Day. The afternoon portion focused on the software and election setup of the tabulation systems. This session was closed to the public to allow senior management staff to evaluate the systems and ask detailed and system-specific questions that pertain to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
Additional Survey Responses from each Vendor
After the individual vendor demonstrations, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections staff had additional questions for the three vendors that participated: Clear Ballot, ES&S, and Hart InterCivic. An “Additional Information Survey” was sent to each vendor; the survey consisted of 25 general questions and an additional set of vendor-specific questions to collect more detailed information about each system.
Individual Election Set-Up Vendor Demonstrations
The three tabulation system vendors were invited back to Cuyahoga County in June 2019 for a demonstration on election coding, election setup & breakdown, and the unique features of each vendor’s scanner, ADA, and central count equipment. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections provided the parameters and all necessary data to create a mock gubernatorial primary election and the vendors were asked to work with our Information Systems Department to translate the data into the formats used by their election management system.
The mock election included a variety of election scenarios that may occur over the lifetime of the voting equipment, including multiple-candidate contests, multiple vote-for options in a single contest, write-in options, lengthy ballot issues, and instances of contests with no valid candidates. Each of the three vendor simulations included system competency testing for a variety of tasks like coding all necessary ballot styles; performing basic logic and accuracy testing of equipment; performing early voting & vote-by-mail scanning; and simulating election night through uploading media, adjudicating remake and write-in votes, generating reports, and creating web uploads of results.
Each vendor had approximately four days to present their equipment to Board of Elections staff who were able to operate and practice using the voting equipment and tabulation system. Many operational questions and issues were addressed by these hands-on demonstrations.
ADA and In-Person Voting Equipment Demonstration
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections hosted an ADA and In-Person Voting Equipment Demonstration in January 2020 to exhibit and evaluate the user interface of the physical voting equipment available from each of the 3 vendors. Interested stakeholders had the opportunity to interact with the physical voting equipment in person, ask equipment vendors and Board of Elections staff questions, and provide feedback to the County.
The event was set up as an open house and guests were able to vote sample ballots in a mock election that simulated the in-person voting process. In particular, the event focused on the functionality of the ADA accessible voting machines and attendees included stakeholders and advocates from the persons with disabilities community. Approximately 70 people attended the open house, representing more than 20 different organizations, including persons with disabilities advocacy groups, voter advocacy groups, and the Board’s community partners. Also in attendance were employees from the Board of Elections and representatives from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
At the conclusion of the event, attendees were invited to complete a brief survey for each vendor that asked participants to rate their experience using the ADA ballot-marking and ballot-scanning devices. The Board received insightful feedback from the ADA community regarding the ballot marking devices and voter advocacy groups had an opportunity to interact with representatives from the equipment vendors and Board of Elections staff. Several people in attendance commented that they found the event educational and were glad to have been invited into the acquisition process. Additionally, it gave the Board’s staff another opportunity to interact with the equipment vendors, ask questions, and contemplate how the equipment will suit the election needs of Cuyahoga County.
Virtual Security Summit
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections hosted a virtual Security Summit on Friday, February 5, 2021 to review and evaluate the security of each vendor’s hardware and software voting systems. Each of the three tabulation systems vendors: Clear Ballot Group, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), and Hart InterCivic, presented materials related to the hardware and software security of their certified voting tabulation systems available for purchase.
The virtual event consisted of two separate sessions. Voter advocacy groups, the media, and interested stakeholders were invited to the morning session, which consisted of three 20 minute presentations made by each vendor via Zoom Webinar. Audience participants were invited to ask questions and provide feedback to the Board by sending an email to email@example.com. A video recording of this session is available for public viewing on our YouTube page. The afternoon session was a private presentation for board personnel, county IT professionals, and elected officials and included a live Q&A with each vendor to explore additional security topics in more detail.
Vendors discussed a variety of security measures they each deploy to protect their voting equipment and tabulation software from cyber and physical tampering. The physical security of the voting equipment is protected through the use of physical locks, tamper-resistant seals, and routine equipment inspections. Vendors also discussed the physical security of their own corporate offices, the conduct of routine background checks on all employees, and their efforts to maintain the integrity of their manufacturing and transportation supply chains. Each vendor also confirmed that their programming and systems development is done by full-time employees based in the US. Additionally, all vendors emphasized that neither their ballot scanners nor the election management system itself are ever connected to the internet, ensuring that no hackers are able to access our systems remotely. Instead, all data transfers are done using physical memory sticks, hardened computers, and unique encryption keys that prevent manipulation of program and election data. At the conclusion of the event, the IT security professionals in attendance later confirmed that there were no red flags and each vendor had satisfactorily answered all of the technical security-related questions they had been asked.
Feedback from Current Customers
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections conducted a series of Zoom conference calls with several counties that had recently purchased new voting equipment from one of the three remaining vendors being evaluated for the purchase of equipment in Cuyahoga County: Clear Ballot Group, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), and Hart InterCivic. The objective of these calls was to evaluate the equipment performance and customer service provided by the three vendors to these counties during the 2020 General Election cycle.
The inter-agency conversations covered a wide range of topics including, the county’s initial decision-making process, the quality of training and support provided by the vendor during the delivery and initial testing of the new equipment, as well as the public and election official response. After hearing from colleagues well versed in election administration, staff also gained valuable insight into the functionality of the voting equipment. Ultimately, these calls afforded staff the opportunity to learn from the experiences of similarly situated counties and gave the selection committee greater confidence in the relative strengths and weaknesses of each vendor's product prior to making a final recommendation.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections hosted a Voting Equipment and Tabulation System Election Demonstration with three certified voting tabulation systems vendors in continuation of the ongoing voting equipment and tabulation system acquisition process.
The Election Demonstration focused on the experience of the general voter utilizing the certified voting equipment available from Clear Ballot Group, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), and Hart InterCivic. Event attendees included Election Day workers, Voter Advocacy groups, community stakeholders, and the general public. Attendees were able to cast a voted ballot on each of the three vendor’s ballot scanners and ask questions of the vendor representatives. Vendors also demonstrated the setup and tear down process of the equipment for Election Day workers. Attendees were asked to complete a brief survey evaluating the relative performance of each of the three vendor’s voting equipment.
The Board received valuable responses from the attendees, giving a full perspective of both the voter’s and the Election Day worker’s experience with each vendor’s equipment. The demonstration also served as an opportunity for the Board’s staff to gain further insight into the technical capabilities of the equipment.
Staff Recommendation to the Board of Elections
Over the course of nearly five years, CCBOE staff completed a systematic review of the current voting equipment and tabulation systems available for purchase from each of the three vendors under review: Clear Ballot Group, ES&S, and Hart InterCivic.
Departments from across the agency came together to evaluate each voting system on a wide-ranging set of criteria, while considering how the CCBOE’s constituents – the voters of Cuyahoga County – would benefit from this acquisition.
An important consideration was given to how each vendor's equipment would fit into the CCBOE’s pre-existing election operations; a complex operation that has been developed and improved over the course of dozens of elections and has made Cuyahoga
County a leader in Ohio election administration. However, the staff was also looking for certain improvements and additional features in the technology that would improve our current voting equipment and tabulation system.
These technological improvements would not only enhance the efficacy of our current election operation procedures but also help ensure the CCBOE stays on the cutting edge of election systems technology and voting equipment. Ultimately, the CCBOE staff determined that Clear Ballot would be the vendor best suited to meet the needs of Cuyahoga County voters. While all three vendors offer many of the improvements and features staff was seeking, Clear Ballot has consistently proven to be the best option over the course of this evaluation process, both in terms of technological enhancements and the willingness to adapt and customize their product to precisely fit the needs of Cuyahoga County.
Purchasing 1,100 units. Used at polling locations on Election Day, and during Early In-Person voting, to scan paper ballots.
Purchasing 350 units. Used to assist voter who cannot easily mark a paper ballot by hand.
Purchasing 12 units. Used for scanning Vote-by-Mail and provisional ballots.
ClearDesign software is used to create the ballot for each election.
ClearCount software is used to tabulate votes and more easily examine write-in votes and ballot marks.
New Voting System Debut
May 2023 Primary Election
The Board of Elections plans to complete installation, testing, and poll worker training for the new equipment by the spring of 2023, with the intention of implementing the new voting equipment for the first time during the May 2023 primary election.