Tarrant County is experiencing an election-related snafu with mail-in ballots.
According to Tarrant County Elections Administrator Heider Garcia, one third of the mail-in ballots that have been received so far have been determined to be unreadable by the scanning machines.
Garcia told Tarrant County commissioners at a meeting on October 27 that more than 22,000 ballots mailed in have "printing issues" from the vendor and are being rejected by ballot-scanning machines.
The problem is a bar code printed on the ballots that is not perfectly legible. The ballot board discovered the problem on October 25 when they started placing completed ballots into scanners.
The affected ballots will now need to be remade by hand by the Elections Office.
Garcia said that they've had minor issues in the past when voters might have accidentally damaged the bar code themselves, but that his department's priority was to "protect the integrity of the ballot."
Ballot board members are now working in 12-hour shifts to rectify the situation. Each ballot must be duplicated and a remake will be produced by the elections administration staff. The process will be overseen by representatives of the major political parties.
In prior years, Tarrant County did its own in-house ballot printing, but with an anticipated increase in mail-in ballots, they subcontracted the printing to Runbeck Election Services in Phoenix, Arizona, who issued the following statement:
"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."
Fortunately, this has no impact on early voting, which extends through October 30. Tarrant County elections officials expect a high turnout during the final week and are adding poll workers to accommodate a potential spike.