Some Texas Voting Machines Can’t Read Mail-In Ballots, 22K Affected So Far

Ballot scanning machines are rejecting about one-third of mail-in ballots returned by voters in Tarrant County. The problem has impacted more than 22,000 ballots so far.

Ballot board members are now working in 12-hour shifts to accurately replicate the ballots so they can be counted.

County elections administrator Heider Garcia told county commissioners in a meeting Tuesday the problem is with a bar code printed on the ballots, that is not 100-percent legible. Garcia said the problem was discovered Sunday as the ballot board started opening envelopes and putting completed ballots into scanners.

Tarrant County moved away from in-house ballot printing this year, contracting with Runbeck Election Services in Phoenix, Arizona. The move was due to the anticipated increase in mail-in ballot requests.

Ballot replication is done yearly, Garcia said, but not at this volume. The process usually involves ballot board members, from more than one political party, manually filling out a new ballot that matches the one that was damaged or unreadable.

Because of the volume of work, Garcia said in this case an employee will likely use an electronic machine to replicate the ballot. Ballot board members will then compare a print out of those choices, to the original ballot that was sent in, to verify the choices match.

Runbeck Elections Services released the following statement on the matter:

“We were concerned to learn that some Tarrant County ballots are not able to be scanned properly by Hart Intercivic tabulation machines, as Runbeck Election Services is a certified ballot printer for Hart Intercivic. This election year alone we have printed nearly 100 million ballots, many of which have been the same type of ballot used in Tarrant County, without experiencing any scanning issues. Runbeck Election Services is working with Tarrant County elections officials to investigate if the problem is printing-related or scanning-related. Once the investigation is complete, we will offer our support to all partners and vendors involved to determine the appropriate next steps to ensure that all ballots are properly tabulated.”

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