CANTON, Ohio -- Some 1,400 portable voting machines were being moved out of the Stark County Board of Elections storage building on Thursday after a storm related roof collapse sent a wave of water rushing into the building the night before.
Board of Elections Director Jeff Matthews blamed the collapse on a clogged drain that allowed rain water to collect on the building's roof during a downpour late Wednesday.
Matthews said he and others were alerted to the collapse immediately because of motion detectors in the building, but by the time they arrived, much of the water that raced into the building had already receeded.
Crews were busy putting a temporary tarped cover over the hole on Thursday while fans were used to try and dry things out.
Matthews said the water could not escape fast enough through a closed garage door, so it rushed into the area where the voting machines are stacked by precinct before slowly running out.
With just a few weeks before a May primary, the extent of the damage to the machines themselves is still unclear.
"The bottom layer has most likely been exposed. It has been exposed, how far up that goes, I don't know. I think we will be able to salvage enough that we will be able to conduct the May 7 primary election with probably fewer machines than is optimal, but we will be able to do it," said Matthews.
Inspectors believe the rest of the building is structurally sound.
Although the storage area is connected to the Board of Elections offices where voting, registration and other election related matters are handled, it is actually in a separate building.
On Thursday, power was restored to the offices, which were operating as usual.
But the task of determining how many of the voting machines are damaged had yet to be assessed.
Matthews said that assessment will have to be done at a different, climate controlled location.
"We dont have the room now. It's tight quarters to begin with, but the lack of climate control is really the problem. We need to dry this stuff out and get it ready for the election in three weeks," said Matthews.
The Board of Elections was working with the insurance company for the county, which owns the building, as well as their vendors to try and make repairs.
No one was injured in the collapse.
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