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Clackamas County tested ballots printed in-house, not from printer responsible for blurred barcodes

The county didn't test voting machines until May 3, and it tested ballots printed in-house — not from the printer that printed ballots going out to voters.

OREGON CITY, Ore. — A number of errors led to the the Clackamas County Elections Division failing to spot problems with ballots in time to replace them, including running a required test of voting machines too close to the election, and by using test ballots that were printed in-house by the office in Clackamas, which were different than the actual ballots sent to voters.

Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall, who is in charge of elections in the county, said the county tested its voting machines May 3 as the first ballots from voters were returned. Hall confirmed the test was run using test ballots printed by her office. 

Those test ballots ran through the machines with no problems — because they were not affected by the blurred barcodes affecting voters' ballots that came from a commercial printer. Oregon law dictates how and when a test of voting machines must be done, but does not specify that counties need to test vote tabulation systems with test ballots that came from the same printer.

“The timeline is what gets in the way of us getting our ballots early enough from the printer to test them, number one. And we’ve just always printed our test deck in house,” said Hall.

That is not the way it is done in Multnomah and Washington Counties. Each run actual ballots from the printer which supplies the ballots for voters. The test makes sure the vote counting machines are tabulating votes correctly and that the ballots are readable.

“We use the same printer to print what we call our logic and accuracy test ballots,” said Multnomah County Director of Elections Tim Scott. 

Scott said Multnomah County tests 25,000 sample ballots before any real ballots go through the machines. 

“So the ballots that we use to prove that the tabulation system is programed correctly. So they are printing those ballots as well, which are real ballots, they are just pre-marked in a pre-determined way so that we can test how the system is tabulating ballots that are marked,” said Scott.

Multnomah County tested its vote counting machines with sample ballots from the printer on April 12 and 13, according to Scott. That would have given the county weeks to prepare if they discovered a problem. Scott said the ballots were counted perfectly by Multnomah County's machines.

Hall said tabulating Clackamas County election results could stretch into June. Dozens of county employees outside the elections office have been reassigned to hand-duplicate ballots so they can be tabulated. 

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