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2020 News

Ballot Width Slows Voting in Some Precincts; Alternate Measures in Place

June 2, 2020

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

Slight irregularities in the width of vendor-supplied paper ballots have slowed voting in some Bucks County precincts today, but backup measures are in place to ensure all hand-marked ballots cast today are accurately counted.

An undetermined number of precincts reported this morning that some batches of paper ballots supplied to the county were a small fraction of an inch too wide to fit easily into the county’s new Clear Ballot voting system scanners.

At some polling places, the sides of the ballots were able to be trimmed slightly with paper cutters to fit the scanners. Others were able to be pushed successfully into the scanners with slight pressure. Clear Ballot flyer pic

The ballots were supplied by Reliance Graphics, the printing vendor certified by Clear Ballot to provide the paper ballots to the county for today’s primary election. Clear Ballot officials said they are working with the polling places to make sure that every ballot is counted.

All judges of elections were instructed this morning to place any completed ballots that are not able to be scanned successfully into red emergency ballot bags situated at the precincts. The bags will be delivered this evening to the Board of Elections office in Doylestown, where they will be fed into high-speed scanners that do not have width restrictions.

“Clear Ballot is partnering with the county and state to ensure every ballot that is too wide for the scanner is safely delivered to a central location and that every vote is counted,” said Ingrid Giordano, Senior Sales Manager for Clear Ballot.

Jack Armstrong, vice president of Reliance Graphics, said the company “strives to be letter-perfect every election” and had created a thorough protocol for testing and verifying the ballots before the primary.

“Unfortunately because of the [COVID-19] quarantine we had to curtail some of those checks,” Armstrong said. “We apologize to any voter who was inconvenienced, and to the staff of the County Board of Elections for any headaches we may have caused today.”

Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, chair of the Board of County Commissioners and a member of the Board of Elections, issued the following statement about the problem:

“I am disappointed that voters had a difficult time today with our new ballot scanners, and I share their frustration and concern. This is our first election under Act 77 with new machines and procedures. Despite months of testing and training to roll out our new voting system, some of the paper supplied to us was too wide to fit in our scanners. Most of it worked, some of it did not.

“There was no way for us to know this would be an issue until today. The vendor the County is under contract with to supply paper, Reliance Graphics, has apologized and I appreciate that they took responsibility. If for any reason your ballot was not able to be scanned at your polling place, it WILL be scanned and counted at the Board of Elections in Doylestown.

“Here is my pledge: everyone who wants to vote today will be able to vote. Every vote that is cast today will be counted. We will take corrective measures immediately to ensure this does not happen ever again.”

Today’s primary is the first county-wide use of the new Clear Ballot voting system. Like all Pennsylvania counties, Bucks County was required by the state to move from its electronic voting machine system and replace it with one in which there is a verifiable paper record of all ballots cast.

The Clear Ballot system was approved in December by the previous county administration and first used on a limited basis for a legislative special election in March. There were no issues with the machines or the ballots during that election.