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An election official inspects a contested ballot during a recount of the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Photo: Facebook.

Blurry ink on Morris County ballot envelopes leading to huge delays in counting votes

Election workers being forced to manually enter bar code numbers for about 20% of all ballots

By David Wildstein, November 09 2020 5:22 pm

The ink is blurred on the envelopes of about one-in-five ballots in Morris County, preventing scanners from reading bar codes and creating massive delays in the counting of votes, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

The blurry ink has forced election workers to manually enter bar code numbers for each voter, into the Statewide Voter Registration System, a problem that is affecting around 56,000 Morris County ballots that cannot be scanned.

The vendor who printed the ballots for Morris County used an ink on the envelope that is blurry or easily smeared, several sources told the NJ Globe.

Blurred ink is making sixes look nines, and eights looking like zeros, creating data entry challenges.

About 288,000 ballots have been cast in Morris County, with around 106,000 of them still uncounted.  On top of that, Morris projects about 12,500 provisional ballots on hand – more may still come in through close of business tomorrow if they are postmarked on or before November 3.

Morris has been counting about 20,000 ballots daily.

The NJ Globe has learned that National Guard members were added to the Board of Elections team today with the hope that the speed of counting will increase.

Counting setbacks are causing delays in reporting vote totals in too-close-to-call races for State Senate and Assembly in the 25th district and Morris County Freeholder – and interrupting a final call in the 7th district congressional race.

Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi, who is responsible for printing the ballots, said that the ink issues reflect just a small part of the massive number of ballots cast.

“This is an unprecedented election year for New Jersey. While it took years for other states to properly and smoothly implement mass mail-in balloting, New Jersey’s County Clerks and Boards of Elections were forced to introduce the process in just a matter of months for both the primary and general election,” Grossi said.  “The process of counting ballots has been naturally slowed by the sheer volume of handling and processing nearly 300,000 paper ballots in a careful and diligent manner. Reports of incompatibilities by an ‘anonymous’ source between some envelopes or ink and one of the newly purchased Board of Elections machines involves a small part of the monumental task undertaken by the Board of Elections to properly process every ballot. Ultimately, the goal is to maintain the integrity of the election process and public confidence in the results, and if achieving that result means going slow, then so be it.”

In 2019, some ballots in Morris Township were challenged because of faulty glue that caused envelopes to separate and ballots to be rejected.

The race for State Senate in the 25th district has narrowed since this morning, with Republican incumbent Anthony M. Bucco (R-Boonton) now leading Democrat Rupande Mehta by 1,284 votes.

Mehta picked up 309 votes in Morris County and now trails Bucco, 39,455 to 38,170, a 50.%-49.3% margin.

This story was updated at 12:43 PM with comment from Grossi.

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