Ballot Irregularities Slow Voting At Some Bucks Precincts

Doug Gross

BUCKS COUNTY, PA — Irregularities with some paper ballots slowed voting at multiple Bucks County voting precincts on Tuesday, according to county officials.

According to officials, an undetermined number of precincts had batches of ballots with "slight irregularities" that made them a fraction of an inch too wide to fit easily into the county's new voting-machine scanners.

They said backup measures are in place to make sure all hand-marked ballots would be counted.

Voters were going to the polls in Pennsylvania's presidential primaries. In Bucks County, voters also were voting on primary races for U.S. Congress.

At some polling places, the sides of the ballots were able to be trimmed with paper cutters to fit the scanners. Others were able to be pushed into the scanners with a little bit of pressure, officials said.

The ballots were supplied by Reliance Graphics, the printing vendor certified by Clear Ballot, which makes the county's new voting machines. 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 into red emergency ballot bags at the precincts. The bags will be delivered 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, a Clear Ballot spokeswoman, in a county news release.

Jack Armstrong, the vice president of Reliance Graphics, said some of the company's ballot testing protocols had to be curtailed because of the coronavirus quarantine.

"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," Armstrong said.

Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, chair of the Board of County Commissioners and a member of the Board of Elections, said she was disappointed that some voters had trouble with their ballots.

"I share their frustration and concern," she said. "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."

"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 commission and first used for a special election in Bensalem in March. There were no issues with the machines or the ballots during that election, according to county officials.

Bucks County officials already had been saying that results from Tuesday's voting might not be available until Wednesday evening. Election workers will be counting a huge number of mail-in ballots cast as voters sought to avoid the polls due to coronavirus concerns.

Bucks County elections workers have handled roughly 100,000 applications for mail-in and absentee ballots for Tuesday's election. By comparison, the county had about 6,000 ballots by mail in the last presidential primary in 2016.

This article originally appeared on the Yardley Patch