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Clackamas County employees reassigned to process ballots by hand after printing error

Thousands of ballots sent to Clackamas County voters were printed with an unreadable barcode, leading to delays for primary election results.

OREGON CITY, Ore. — Tena Olson spent her Thursday at the Clackamas County elections building to watch a room full of people process ballots.

"My vote is important to me," said Olson, a Wilsonville resident. "I don't trust it anymore."

Olson is concerned about the thousands of faulty ballots distributed to Clackamas County voters that were printed with barcodes that were either too light or too blurry. 

It was difficult, if not impossible, for machines to scan the ballots, leading to delayed results in the primary election

"This is a drastic mistake," Olson said.

Kimberly Dinwiddie, spokesperson for Clackamas County, said she understands the frustration from voters. 

She said hundreds of county employees have been reassigned to fix the ballot problem. They are teaming up with elections workers to process the ballots by hand. 

Credit: Mike Benner, KGW staff
Tena Olson observes the democratic process.

RELATED: 'It is my responsibility': Clackamas County Clerk addresses ballot counting delays

Up to 80 people can process the ballots at a time, but not before their date of birth and party affiliation are verified in the voter registration database. Then, people of opposite parties are paired up to help ensure fairness.

"It's not as simple as names on a spreadsheet," Dinwiddie said. "It's a process that takes time, and we're still filling the schedule."

Due to the ballot snafu, the county had to come up with special accommodations. A break room was turned into an overflow ballot processing area, complete with an observation area for the public, and surveillance cameras were added for additional security. 

"We understand people want results and they want things done right," Dinwiddie said.

Tena Olson wants things done right. She pledged to observe the process every single day until the job is complete.

"My vote counts," she said.

Ballots must be processed, and the election certified, by June 13.

RELATED: Primary Election 2022: Results from the top races in Oregon and Portland

RELATED: Rural Oregon outperforms urban areas in May primary voter turnout

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