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With absentee ballot requests up 120% in Hamilton Co., the BOE wants you to know how secure such ballots are

Sherry and Alex voting room.jpg
Ann Thompson
Hamilton County BOE Director Sherry Poland and Deputy Director Alex Linser show off secure measures for the Vote Count Room, including a double security card swipe needed from both a Republican and a Democrat to get into the room.

It's trying to do that through a series of videos on social media and a behind-the-scenes tour, which WVXU went on.

It's a month-and-a-half until the November election, and Hamilton County Board of Elections Deputy Director Alex Linser says there’s been a 120% increase in application requests for absentee ballots since 2018.

“It’s for the political observers to gesticulate on just why that’s going on," Linser says. "We have seen an increase in vote by mail since 2020 — which was the COVID election — and when a lot of people learned how to vote by mail, they learned the convenience of being able to do that. So, every election since then, we’ve seen higher vote by mail numbers."

RELATED: How mail-in voting works in Ohio: A step-by-step guide

There’s also been an uptick in the number of public records requests for the 2020 election. The BOE has gotten 204 public records requests this year for the 2020 election — more than a quarter of them in the last month. Many of those requests are for copies of all of the ID envelopes from mail ballots in that election. But once people find out it will cost them $75,000, they don't follow through with the request.

“Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been getting about three requests a day," Linser says. "It’s starting to slow down a little bit, but there was a flurry of activity starting about two or three weeks ago.”

RELATED: Election deniers pushing effort for huge ballot requests in Ohio and other states

Inside the 'cage'

The Hamilton County Board of Elections wants to assure the public the process of collecting and counting ballots is secure. It's trying to do that through a series of videos on social media and a behind-the-scenes tour

Linser and Board of Elections Director Sherry Poland explain when ballots arrive, they’re kept in the “cage,” a floor-to-ceiling fenced-in area of the BOE warehouse. Two security card swipes are required to get in — one from a Republican and one from a Democrat. Cameras watch who comes in and out, and people wanting entrance have to sign in and out.

cage at BOE.jpg
Ann Thompson
Hamilton County ballots received ahead of election day are kept here in "The Cage."

Other security measures are in place for the Vote Count Room. Here’s another place where a Republican and a Democrat both must swipe their security cards to open the door.

Inside that room, there's no Internet, so on election night, workers have to put the information on a thumb drive and then run it over to the IT department before updating the BOE website.

Poland is predicting a 58% turnout or higher. That's what she saw in 2018.

Ann Thompson has years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology