At least 1,300 ballots placed in “Gate 3” on Election Day ended up in those secure boxes for reasons other than Maricopa County printer issues, according to election officials.
Officials believe misinformation about pens and the marking of ballots may have contributed to tabulators’ inability to read those ballots.
These ballots were from voters marked in blue ballpoint pen, with checkmarks, x-marks and other ambiguous markings rather than the filled-in oval bubble.
The number of ballots that landed in secure boxes used for tabulator misreads, known as “Gate 3”, due to issues with printer settings on Election Day becomes “de smaller and smaller,” Chief Electoral Officer Scott Jarrett said.
“It shows that there are other reasons why some of those ballots entered door number three that were unrelated to the printers,” he said.
Printers were a problem, of course.
In Maricopa County, polling station printers produce on-demand ballots so voters can vote at any location in the county. Officials determined on Election Day that formatting marks and text on some printer-produced ballots were not printed dark enough for tabulators to read.
The problems affected about 30% of polling stations and about 6% of total ballots cast on Election Day.
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But officials are finding that some of the ballots that ended up in ‘Gate 3’ aren’t there due to printer issues, bringing their initial estimates down to a maximum of 17,000 affected ballots. .
Instead, some were sent to arbitration boards, which review ballots that cannot be read by tabulators because voters used ballpoint pens to check or cross out ballot bubbles.
“They bring their own pens,” Jarrett said. “And it happens to be a very thin ballpoint pen. It won’t fill the oval enough, or if they choose to vote with checkmarks, it won’t fill the oval enough to s ‘register as a vote that our tabulator can read.’
Voters are expected to completely fill the bubble when voting for a candidate.
If they don’t, the tabulators may not be able to read the ballot and spit out the ballot, returning a “misread” error message. Election officials who see this message are instructed to tell voters to take their ballots back and fill in the circles more completely so county on-site tabulators can count the vote.
But given the day’s chaos, some voters opted to place poorly marked ballots in the “Gate 3” ballot box.
Officials called it an example of misinformation adding to the Election Day turmoil.
“That’s why it’s so important that voters have the right information about how to participate in elections,” said Department of Elections spokeswoman Megan Gilbertson. “But luckily we have all these back-up plans to make sure the voter’s ballot is counted.”
About 1.5 million people voted in the general election in Maricopa County. Nearly 250,000 voted in person on Election Day.
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Problems compounded by pen misinformation
Maricopa County officials have talked a lot about the pens.
Specifically, they asked voters to use county-issued pens at the polls. These felt-tip markers dry faster, officials say, ensuring that pen ink doesn’t clog tabulators in place as ballots pass through them minutes after being marked.
This time around, the county pens were PaperMate brand markers, similar to old markers provided to voters in previous elections.
But some voters avoided the markers.
A polling center in Sun City West saw a group of Republicans handing out brand new ballpoint pens, and officials said people stole county-issued pens from at least one polling place.
Pen thefts first surfaced in the August primary after County Supervisor candidate Gail Golec encouraged people to bring their own blue-ink pens to the polls.
Golec said on Twitter at the time that she did so to protect the vote because county-issued pens “can insert votes that look like felt-tip pens.”
As proof, she pointed to a video of a ballot that she says turned out to be altered as it was traced through voting machines in Georgia, as well as claims by Jovan Pulitzer, an inventor and theorist. of the conspiracy that spread misinformation about the 2020 election.
In the days leading up to November 8, these claims began to circulate again on social media.
Ballpoint pens could partly explain why tabulators couldn’t process incorrectly completed ballots, Jarrett said.
The markers create darker, thicker lines if a voter ticks or crosses out a bubble on their ballot, he said. This means that sometimes tabulators can still read these marks, even though the whole circle is not bubbled.
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But ballpoint pens create narrower, fainter lines, which Jarrett says has compounded the problem of voters not marking their ballots correctly.
If those voters had used a felt-tip pen, there would have been a better chance the ballots had been read by tabulators, he said.
More arbitrations than usual
When ballots are returned with smudges, bleeds, overvotes and marks that cannot be read by tabulators, they must go through a process known as arbitration.
A bipartisan team of referees reviews scans of the marks on each ballot to determine if they can be counted. An electronic overlay shows them which marks are in question in the images, and the team manually creates a computer log of how to resolve each vote.
They also create a handwritten log and compare the two to make sure the votes are recorded correctly.
Incorrectly marked “gate 3” ballots must now go through this process, Jarrett said.
Adjudication rates are already up because several registered candidates have shown up in races this election cycle, he said. Tabulators can’t read handwriting, so those ballots have to go to bipartisan councils.
Mismarked ballots from the “Gate 3” box contributed to a “slight delay” as officials processed and counted ballots cast Tuesday, Jarrett said.
“The day we had to go through and read those ballots on election day (put them in tabulators to be counted) that slowed down our advice a bit,” Jarrett said.
“That was the day we released around 75,000 (results), and most other days we were over 80,000.”
About 5,000 “Gate 3” Election Day ballots remain to be counted, Jarrett said. If the trends he’s seeing with mismarked ballots continue, he expects about 600 of them could go to arbitration boards.
This would bring the maximum number of ballots affected by printer issues on Election Day to less than 15,000, regardless of other reasons why they might have ended up in the misread “gate” box. 3″, which sees ballots in every election due to smudges, small marks and other issues.
Sasha Hupka covers Maricopa County and regional issues for the Arizona Republic with a focus on voting and democracy. Got an election tip or a voting question? Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @SashaHupka.
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