Ballot printing mistake leads to 10,000 flawed absentee ballots in Gwinnett County

Here’s the emerging story from Georgia, “10,000 absentee ballots in Gwinnett are flawed.” Details from the story:

The original ballots, designed to be filled out by hand, are flawed because of a printing error. The circle beside the candidate’s name is too thick and somewhat misshapen, and consequently an optical scanning machine won’t be able to read the votes on Election Day.

The county discovered the problem last week during routine testing.

Gwinnett had already mailed out 19,700 flawed ballots before it realized the problem.

Of those, 10,000 have already been marked and sent back by voters, said Lynn Ledford director of Voter Registration and Elections for Gwinnett County.

The printing mistake was not apparent to the naked eye, Ledford said.

The elections office will now have to transfer the votes from those 10,000 ballots onto new ballots so an optical scanning machine can read them, Ledford said. If more of the flawed ballots come back, that number will increase.

County spokesman Joe Sorenson said correcting the errors could be complicated.

“[Election workers] are going to have to take the bad ballots, take a look at what each choice is, and mark that choice for the second ballot,” Sorenson said. “There will be two sets of eyes on each ballot.”

From 200 to 300 election workers will be dedicated to this process, he said.

Ballot remaking, or duplication, is a tricky business; I’ve written about it in early blog posts, as we have seen ballot remaking in Los Angeles County. Thad and I had an opportunity yesterday to study the ballot remaking or duplication process as it is done for mail ballots in Thurston County, Washington (we’ll have more to say about our visit to Washington this week in the future!).

Some quick suggestions for Gwinnett County, based on our studies in LA County and Thurston County, are that it would be a good idea to have more than “two sets of eyes” on each ballot; instead, ideally one pair of election workers would duplicate each ballot, then a second pair of election workers would verify that the duplication was done correctly. Also, having a record associated with each duplicated ballot indicating who did the duplication, who checked it, and other information about the origin of the ballot would be important to generate and retain for auditing purposes. Finally, maintaining a clear chain of custody for the original and duplicated ballot, and keeping the original ballots sealed, secured and apart from the duplicated ballots is important.