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Paper ballots in Wyandotte County are so big, it’s causing scanning problems

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
A voter at the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kansas scans their paper ballot Tuesday.

Paper ballots in the fourth-largest county in Kansas had to be folded for transport to polling locations. The creases have made some unreadable by vote counting machines.

Several voters and poll watchers have reported that paper ballots are causing issues with vote counting machines in Wyandotte County.

According to Wyandotte County election officials, the issue stems from the increased size of paper ballots in this election.

“There was not an issue with the machines,” said Wyandotte County Election Commissioner Michael Abbott. “It was an issue with a crease made in the actual ballot because it’s so long.”

Abbott says that this year's ballot is one of the longest he’s ever seen, mainly due to the multiple judges and two constitutional amendments before voters in Kansas this year.

Due to the increased size of the physical paper ballots, election workers had to fold them to fit them inside the secure transfer containers used to move paper ballots to and from polling locations.

Tabulation machines at polling centers couldn’t read some of the folded ballots.

“On some of the ballots, wherever they creased them, if it’s in the middle of a race or a write in line, the scanner was rejecting them,” Abbott said. “We told our workers to try to flatten out the ballots, and nine times out of 10 the machine takes them.”

Election workers are still counting paper ballots that are rejected due to creases.

“Election workers will seal those ballots in an envelope and then they will be taken back to our office to be scanned tonight,” Abbott said.

Voters can instead use electronic voting machines, which print out smaller ballots that can be submitted to the tabulation machines.

Election workers will scan all paper ballots rejected by machines after polls close tonight at 7 p.m. at the Wyandotte County Election Office.

Zach Perez is KCUR's fall news intern. He started with KCUR after graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in Political Science. Zach previously worked as an on-air personality for Wildcat 91.9 in Manhattan, Kansas, and as a Media Production Specialist for the Kansas chapter of the International Western Music Association.
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