Clackamas County elections officials say some of their May 17 primary ballots have defective barcodes and will need to be processed differently.
But they say the problem won’t impact election results.
As ballots began arriving this week, county workers discovered that some have blurred barcodes. That means the county’s automated ballot processing equipment cannot read them and rejects them.
Clackamas County leaders blamed the printing company that creates the ballots for the problem. They said they don’t know how many ballots are defective.
Ballots that have been rejected by the machine but are valid will be hand-processed by a team of election workers. At least two workers with different partisan affiliations will work together to transfer the votes from faulty ballots onto new ones. Those will be entered into the processing machine.
Clackamas leaders say they do not know how much extra work or time will be required to ensure that every valid ballot is counted. Although primary ballots must be turned in or postmarked by May 17 meaning election results won’t be certified until June.
County Clerk Sherry Hall noted in a statement that the elections office receives some ballots every campaign cycle that have been damaged or marked in a way that does not allow them to be read by ballot processing machines. So there’s already a system in place to handle ballots that cannot be processed automatically.
This spring’s defective barcodes aren’t the first time Clackamas County has had problems during an election process. In 2016, election officials discovered a missing ballot box several weeks after voting had ended in the May primary. In 2012, an election worker was discovered tampering with ballots and was charged with six counts, including four felonies.