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Clackamas County reassures voters after defective barcodes found on ballots

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:56 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - After a printing error caused blurred barcodes on many Clackamas County ballots, the County Clerk is assuring voters that their ballots will still be counted but it will take a little bit longer than expected.

Sherry Hall, the Clackamas County Clerk, says the county sent out over 300,000 ballots in April before catching the problem early this month.

“We put our first batch of ballots through,” said Hall. “That’s 125 ballots. The machine was rejecting 70 to 80 ballots out of those 125. We instantly knew there was a huge problem. Basically, we knew we were going to have to duplicate the bad ballots because we did not have time to print again and send out again. This is the fastest way for us to remedy the problem and its very tedious work but we have to do it. That’s the only way we can count the votes that the voters sent.”

Due to the blurred barcodes, some ballots cannot be read by the machines. This means the damaged ballots will have to be duplicated by hand. Hall says it’s a process they have used for years now, just not to this scale.

“The whole process is spelled out in the vote by mail manual,” Hall said. “In fact, if anybody wants to get on the Secretary of State’s website and pull that manual down it’s on page 38 and it describes what we do. We do duplicate ballots every election because maybe there are problems with the barcodes, or you spill a drink or food on your ballot and you send it in anyway and we know the machine will not read that ballot. There are three barcodes on our ballots. One of them is the one that tells the machine how to read the voters votes and with them being rejected the code was unable to read barcodes.”

Here’s how it works: Teams of at least two people from different parties will take the damaged ballot. One team member will read the votes, and the other will mark the votes on a new ballot. Then the team members will switch roles and proof the ballot. The original ballot will be retained and indexed to match it to the corresponding new ballot. The new ballot will be put back into the counting machines to be tallied.

The Clackamas County Clerk’s Office says it’s a process they’ve used for several elections now, but duplicating this many ballots will take time. The county has until June 13 to certify election results.

“It will take that long,” said Hall. “We will also be putting out our tally results and there will be results at about 8:15 election night. That will tell you how many ballots are in that results and we will also have the date on the same page of when our next results will be posted.”

Hall says voters can watch election workers from their observation room.

“Every hour we are open to work is open for observation,” said Hall. “You can just come on your own without announcing it. Enter through our front door and we will let you into the area. Some are also registering with their parties who are bringing in observers.”

Hall says although the results will take longer to get, she still encourages everyone to get out and vote if they haven’t already.

“I just want the voters to vote on their ballot the way they always do: put it in the envelope, sign it, and get it to us,” Hall said. “You can put it in a drop box up until 8 pm tomorrow night or you can take it to the post office. You need an Election Day post mark.”