Clackamas County Blurred Ballots


The Clackamas County Clerk's Office released this statement about a problem on some ballots:

It has come to the office of the County Clerk’s attention that some ballots printed for the May 17, 2022 Primary Election have barcodes that are blurred. This was a printing issue with an external printer who has printed ballots for Clackamas County for more than 10 years with no issues. This defect in the printed ballot causes the affected ballots to be rejected by the county’s automated ballot processing equipment. The ballots with the defect are validly cast votes, and will be tallied. 

The defective bar codes do not identify voters nor do they relate in any way to voter’s selections on candidates or measures. They are a code that identifies the “ballot style” so that the equipment can tally the votes in the correct elections. 

A certain number of ballots that are received in every election are damaged in handling, in the mail, or while in the possession of the voters due to beverage spills and similar accidents. There is a routine process for handling those ballots. The original ballots themselves are retained. At least two election workers of different political affiliations transfer the votes to a machine-readable duplicate ballot. The workers must agree that the votes cast on the original ballot have been correctly transferred to the “duplicate” ballot to be read by the machine. The duplicate ballot is then included in the batch to be processed in place of the damaged ballot. The damaged ballot is retained.

While there are damaged ballots and ballots marked in a fashion that they are not machine-readable in virtually every election, the incidents are ordinarily very small. Preliminary batch runs for the current election lead the County Clerk to believe that the numbers for this election are higher than usual and that additional time and effort will be necessary. The entire process of ballot duplication for the machine-unreadable ballots will be witnessed by election observers, but, the level of activity will be higher than they have seen in the past. Observable colored lanyards identify the political affiliation of election workers and are worn at all times so that observers can be sure that correct process is being used.

County Clerk Sherry Hall stated:

“It is our objective to count every validly cast vote in this election and every election. Our voters are entitled to expect nothing less. We have plans and procedures in place to competently and correctly respond with this situation and many others. Fortunately, recent legislative and regulatory changes allowed my staff to identify this problem early in the election and have provided additional time to deal with it. It is simply a matter of staffing up and scaling up a process that has been vetted and is already in use. While legislative changes will delay final election results, that delay is due to the shift from a close of polls at 8 PM on Election Day cutoff for receipt of ballots to an Election Day postmark cutoff for ballots. We simply will not have them all to count at 8 PM on Election Day. The delay is not caused by the need to duplicate ballots that are not machine-readable in their original form. There is no better election staff than the one we have here in Clackamas County and we expect to meet all deadlines for the release of tallies and certification of results in spite of the increase in workload.”


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