Washington DC – This week, results of a consequential House race in Montana were delayed due to ballot printing errors in Lincoln County. The Associated Press reports that the print vendor incorrectly printed ballots on the wrong sized paper, making them unreadable by the tabulator.
“Election officials in Lincoln County are working hard to process ballots by hand and will get an accurate result,” said Matt Weil, director of BPC’s Elections Project. “Supply chain crises and the global paper shortage mean that situations like this will only be more common as we gear up for the midterm elections. Election officials must test ballots before they are sent to voters and be vigilant in preparing the electorate for potential delayed results as soon as issues identified.”
Short on paper stock, some vendors might inadvertently substitute different paper types or sizes to fill orders. Ballot tabulators are highly specific, and any change in paper type could make ballots unreadable. BPC’s Task Force on Elections recommends that election officials test ballots as soon as possible before they’re sent to voters to allow for maximum time to respond to any issues. Additionally, election officials should have crisis communication plans in place that explain hand counting procedures clearly and succinctly to preempt the risk of misinformation and disinformation.
For more on how supply chains are impacting election administration, read the Elections Project’s latest report: Preparing for Ballot Paper Shortages in 2022 and 2024.