PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Two weeks before the primary election, the Clackamas County elections office discovered they were going to have to deal with a big problem. They say their machines aren’t able to count a large number of ballots.
“Yesterday was the day we started opening ballots to prepare for tally,” Clackamas County clerk Sherry Hall explained.
Hall said that’s when elections office employees realized countless ballots have defective barcodes, which tells the counting machine how to read the ballot.
“It’s actually the way the ballots are printed. The barcode’s lines were not crisp and dark black and then the ballot itself, there’s light ink and dark ink,” Hall explained.
Hall said they don’t know exactly how many barcodes are unreadable but told KOIN 6 News the number is high — likely two-thirds of the 309,000 ballots sent to Clackamas County voters.
Now, the elections office must prepare to tally all those votes by hand.
“Elections must go on. Elections need to be done on time. Dates are set in stone and we do not get overwhelmed with this because we’re problem solvers,” Hall said.
KOIN 6 News found out when it comes to hand-counting ballots there’s a lot of work involved to ensure election integrity.
“Each ballot has a unique identifying number and when we take that ballot to duplicate onto a new ballot, that number will be transferred to the new ballot. It will be handwritten so that we can always marry the bad ballot to the good ballot that will we duplicate, so that there’s always tracking of exact number of ballots that we received,” Hall explained.
Hall invites voters with concerns to observe the process.
Clackamas County Board of County Commissioners Chair Tootie Smith told KOIN 6 News county elections will move forward using the Oregon law’s method to “ensure accuracy and honor voter intent,” but warned election results may “be delayed by the sheer volume of affected ballots, which is not completely known at this time.”
“We can show anyone that wants to look at the duplicated ballot along with the original ballot to make sure that it’s done exactly the same,” Hall said.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated Sherry Hall’s name as Sherry Clark. The article has since been updated to state the correct name.