Board of Elections members Carla Tooman and Tony Schroeder test the county's voting system prior to the Nov. 3 election. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)
Board of Elections members Carla Tooman and Tony Schroeder test the county's voting system prior to the Nov. 3 election. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)

PUTNAM COUNTY — There are just 20 days left before county residents go to the polls for this November’s highly anticipated and contentious presidential election. On Tuesday, officials and employees of the Putnam County Board of Elections are ratcheting up to high gear.

Following a day of training poll workers, Director Karen Lammers and Assistant Director Becky Hermiller met with board members for the last official meeting before the big day. For the first order of business, board members Kurt Sahloff (R), Carla Tooman (D), Tony Schroeder (R), and Kathleen Miller (D), conducted a public test of the county’s voting tabulators.

In a back room of the Board of Elections offices, past a cluster of hand sanitizing dispensers, sat each precinct’s individual tabulator; 12 in all. Using randomly generated paper ballots — the test deck — the board members fed the samples into the precinct tabulators.

Once finished — a process that took no more than a few minutes; the ballots used represent just a small, but specific fraction of the total number of voters for each precinct — a flash drive containing the data collected was pulled from each machine. That flash drive was then taken to what Lammers and Hermiller casually refer to as The 400, a machine which then receives the collected data, and ultimately collates it into a final county tally of all votes cast at the various precincts.

The premise behind the test is simple. The data fed via flashdrive into The 400 — the cumulative votes cast at each precinct — should match up both with the precinct tabulator, and in the overall.

Confident in the process, Lammers uttered an assured, “They will match up,” well before The 400 has finished crunching the numbers.

And they do.

While the results offered no surprises to Lammers, the positive outcome of the test must surely have come as a relief. Just two days into the second week of early in-person voting, the BoE office reports 1,200 voters have already passed through the doors. Tack on top of those 1,200 the distribution of over 4,800 mail-in ballots to date, and a healthy percentage of voters will have already cast their votes before election day; votes that will have been processed — though not officially tabulated — and stored for examination on Nov. 3.

Also present for the test was Northwest Ohio Regional Liaison Jake Huner, a member of Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s staff. Equally sanguine about the results, Huner assured this year’s election process is beyond reproach.

“We’ve worked really hard to create a fair and balanced system, and that’s something we take a lot of pride in,” Huner said.

Sahloff, though, in keeping with a lawyer’s penchant for anticipating the worst while planning for the best, acknowledged the possibility, however remote, of a breakdown in the system. In such a case, at least in Putnam County, he also recognized a safeguard.

“At the end of the day, we still have the paper ballots,” Sahloff said, displaying one from the test deck he’d fed into the machine earlier. “We can always go back and hand-count each vote.”