Mistakes in the printing press are forcing local officials in the Pennsylvania and Oregon elections to rework thousands of ballots sent by mail, a time-consuming process that could delay the results of some very difficult elections to Tuesday’s primaries.
In Pennsylvania, where the Republican Party’s primaries for governors and the U.S. Senate are attracting national attention, Republican-leaning Lancaster County officials said the company that printed the ballots by mail included the wrong ID code, preventing them from scanning. The problem was at least 21,000 ballots sent by mail, only a third of which were scanned properly.
The failure will force voters to manually put in new ballots, which is expected to take several days. Officials in the county, the sixth most populous in the state, have promised that all ballots will eventually be counted.
“Citizens deserve accurate election results, and they deserve to receive them on election night, not a few days,” Josh Parsons, a Republican and vice chairman of the county council, told a news conference. “But because of that, we’re not going to have the final election results from these ballots in the mail, probably a few days, so it’s very, very upsetting to us.”
In Oregon, where all registered voters receive ballots by mail, officials in one politically key constituency face a similar problem. More than half of the ballots sent to voters in Klakamas County, the third most populous state in the state, included a blurry barcode that could not be read by ballot scanning machines.
Teams that include both Democrats and Republicans are duplicating each ballot so they can be scanned, and more workers have been brought in to help. In a statement, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan called the problems in Klakamas County “unacceptable,” but said she was confident the final results would be accurate.
Clackamas County includes part of the new 6th District of Oregon Congress, formed after the state won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census. It also includes the recently revised 5th Congressional Constituency, where incumbent Democratic MP Kurt Schreider was at the beginning of his return, giving way to progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a lawyer and former city planner who is committed to the party’s progressives.
In a statement issued by the campaign, McLeod-Skinner said of the problems with the vote count: “Now, more than ever, it is important that we respect the fairness of our election. We know that it may take extra time to count the ballots, and we respect the state procedure. The most important thing is that the voice of every Oregon resident is taken into account. “
Pennsylvania and Oregon were among the five states to hold the primaries on Tuesday, along with Idaho, Kentucky and North Carolina, where there were small morning delays at polling stations in three counties.
The mistake of printing ballots was just one of several voting problems that arose on election day in Pennsylvania, a state where former President Donald Trump challenged his loss to Joe Biden in 2020 and where many Republican lawmakers repeated his false statements about stolen elections.
In Allegheny, Pittsburgh, turnout was higher than expected, with some polling stations running out of ballots.
County spokeswoman Amy Downs said she could not confirm reports that some voters had been rejected, but said all polling stations where additional ballots were needed had received them.
Allegheny County Council member Sam DeMarco, who is also the election commissioner and chairman of the district’s Republican Party, said the situation adds to some Republicans’ concerns about the voting process.
“It just gives them more reason to doubt the fairness of the election, and they feel that everyone is against them,” he said.
County Council member Bethany Halam, a Democrat who also serves as election commissioner, said the lack of ballots affects both Republicans and Democrat voters.
“The electoral department is doing its best to predict turnout at each of the 1,323 polling stations in Allegheny district, but that’s not an exact science,” Halam said. “We will use the deficit reported in this election to better predict how much will be provided for the next election, and work hard to prevent this from happening in the future.”
In Berks County, Pennsylvania, a judge ruled Tuesday that all polling stations will remain open for an hour, until 9:00 p.m. . Voters who come to the polls after 8 pm will have to vote conditionally, not use voting machines.
Improperly coded postal ballots in Lancaster County have once again drawn attention to the 2019 state voting law – passed with the support of two parties – which has greatly expanded postal voting, often a target for Trump.
Local election officials across the state have criticized several restrictions on the law, especially one that prevents them from processing ballots sent by mail before election day. This would allow counties to get a head start on checking these ballots and start detecting any errors.
Lancaster County Council Chairman Ray D’Agostino called the law “indecent” for constituencies trying to hold elections.
County officials said the contractor, Kleisburg, Pennsylvania, NPC, sent county test ballots with the correct identification code, but used the wrong code in the ballots sent to voters. The NPC did not immediately respond to the message with a request for comment, but D’Agostino said the company had taken “full responsibility”.
Pennsylvania State Department spokeswoman Ellen Layan said no other counties had reported similar problems.
Constituency voters now have to resume voter election on blank ballots. Lancaster County, which won Trump by about 16 percentage points compared to Biden in the 2020 presidential race, was forced to use a similar process during last year’s primaries due to a typo by another vendor who was later fired.
Christa Miller, head of the voter registration department, said the voter reads out each voter’s choice, the other employee writes them on a blank ballot, and the observer will make sure the election is marked correctly.
“Our top priority is accuracy, not how fast we can do something,” she said.
Associated Press authors Gillian Flaccus of Portland, Oregon, and Chris Grigil of Seattle contributed to this report.
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