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Printing errors force election officials to remake mail-in ballots in Oregon, Pennsylvania

Printing errors will force local election officials in Pennsylvania and Oregon to recast thousands of mail-in ballots, a laborious process that could delay the results of some hotly contested races in Tuesday’s primaries.

In Pennsylvania, where the GOP primaries for governor and U.S. Senate are garnering national attention, officials in Republican-leaning Lancaster County say the company that printed its mail-in ballots included the wrong code. identification, preventing scanners from being able to read them. The problem involved at least 21,000 mail-in ballots, only a third of which were properly scanned.

The issue will require election workers to hand-mark new ballots, a process that is expected to take several days. Officials in the county, the state’s sixth most populous, promised that all ballots would eventually be counted.

“Citizens deserve to have accurate election results and they deserve to have them on election night, not days later,” said Josh Parsons, a Republican and vice chairman of the County Board of Commissioners, at the a press conference. “But because of that, we’re not going to have the final election results from those mail-in ballots for probably several days, so it’s very, very frustrating for us.”

In Oregon, where all registered voters receive a mail-in ballot, officials in a politically crucial county face a similar problem. More than half of ballots sent to voters in Clackamas County, the state’s third most populous, included a fuzzy barcode that cannot be read by ballot scanners.

Teams including both Democrats and Republicans are duplicating each ballot so they can be scanned, and extra workers have been brought in to help. In a statement, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan called Clackamas County’s problems “unacceptable” but said she was confident the final results would be accurate.

Clackamas County includes part of Oregon’s new 6th congressional district, formed after the state won a seat in the United States House following the 2020 census. It also includes the 5th congressional district of Newly redesigned Congress, where incumbent Democratic Representative Kurt Schrader was in early returns behind progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a lawyer and former city planner aligned with party progressives.

In a statement released by the campaign, McLeod-Skinner said of the vote counting issues: “Now more than ever, it is important that we respect the integrity of our elections. We know ballots can take longer to be counted and we respect the state process. What matters most is that every Oregonian’s vote is counted.

Pennsylvania and Oregon were among five states holding primaries on Tuesday, along with Idaho, Kentucky and North Carolina, where slight morning delays were reported at polls in three counties.

The mail-in ballot misprint was just one of many voting issues to erupt on Election Day across Pennsylvania, a state where former President Donald Trump has contested his defeat in the face of to Joe Biden in 2020 and where many Republican lawmakers repeated his bogus claims of a stolen election.

In Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, a higher-than-expected turnout led some polling places to run out of ballots.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs said she could not confirm reports that some voters had been turned away, but said all polling places that needed extra ballots had received them.

Allegheny County Councilman Sam DeMarco, who is also the county’s election commissioner and GOP chairman, said the situation added to concerns among some Republicans about the voting process.

“It just gives them more reason to doubt the integrity of the election, and they can feel things are stacked against them,” he said.

County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam, a Democrat who is also an election commissioner, said the ballot shortage was affecting both Republican and Democratic primary voters.

“The Division of Elections does its best to predict turnout in each of Allegheny County’s 1,323 precincts, but it’s not an exact science,” Hallam said. “We will use the shortages reported in this election to better predict how many people will be needed for the next election and will work hard to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

In Berks County, Pennsylvania, a judge ruled on Tuesday that all polling places would remain open an hour later, until 9 p.m. electronic registers used to register voters. Voters arriving at polling stations after 8 p.m. will be required to cast provisional ballots rather than use voting machines.

Poorly coded mail-in ballots in Lancaster County have drawn renewed attention to a 2019 election law — passed with bipartisan support — that dramatically expanded voting by mail, a frequent target of Trump.

Local election officials across the state have criticized several of the law’s restrictions, particularly one that prevents them from processing mail-in ballots before Election Day. This would allow counties to get a head start on validating these ballots and begin to identify errors.

Lancaster County Board Chairman Ray D’Agostino called the law “untenable” for counties trying to hold elections.

County officials said the contractor, the Claysburg, Pa.-based NPC, sent county test slips with the correct ID code, but used the wrong code on those sent to voters. NPC did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment, but D’Agostino said the company took “full responsibility.”

Pennsylvania State Department spokeswoman Ellen Lyon said no other counties have reported similar issues.

County election officials must now recreate voters’ choices on blank ballots. Lancaster County, which opted for Trump by about 16 percentage points over Biden in the 2020 presidential contest, had to use a similar process in the primaries last year due to a printing error by a another supplier who was subsequently terminated.

Christa Miller, chief voter registration clerk, said one election worker will read each voter’s choices, a second worker will record them on a blank ballot, and an observer will make sure the choices are correctly marked.

“Our main priority is precision, not how quickly we can do something,” she said.

Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon, and Chris Grygiel in Seattle contributed to this report.

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