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Alabama Legal Fight Over Voting Records Prompts Question About Ohio's Law

Hamilton County elections employees count ballots in November 2011.

All eyes were on the Alabama senate race this week. But there was also a legal battle over whether to keep digital ballot images or delete them.

The state Supreme Court will hear the case next week but issued a ruling in the meantime that clears the way for the state to delete the digital records.

After hearing about the Alabama case, someone on Facebook posed the question: Is deleting electronic voting records the norm the day after an election?

WVXU picked up the phone and called Hamilton County Elections Director Sherry Poland.

"Ohio law states that we should keep ballots, both paper and electronic records of those ballots, for 60 days if it's a non-federal election and for 22 months if it's a federal election," she says.

Poland points to Ohio Revised Code 3505.31 for the retention information and the Ohio Secretary of State's office for defining a ballot as both the paper ballot and its electronic image.

Hamilton County, however, hasn't deleted any of its electronic records since going digital.

"Our practice in Hamilton County is to, after that retention period is over, back that data up onto an external hard drive which we have maintained for 10 years," Poland says.

The cost is nominal to keep the data, and unlike with boxes of paper records, there's plenty of storage space.

"It can be helpful to us," explains Poland, "to see how a ballot was designed perhaps 10 years ago. To give an example, special elections congressional elections and special elections like occurred in Alabama are rare. So it would be helpful if we had the database from the last time an election like that occurred to be able to go back and reference it."