Election officials urged to prepare for shortages and delays | News, Sports, Jobs


AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus, File An election worker examines a ballot at the Clackamas County Elections office Thursday, May 19 in Oregon City, Ore.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Election officials across the country gathered under tight security were urged Tuesday to prepare for supply chain issues that could lead to shortages of paper used for everything from ballots to “I voted” stickers for years to come.

The National Association of State Election Officers’ summer meeting brought together nearly 200 people, including election officers from 33 states, election security experts, interest groups who work with elections, vendors and others.

Election security experts have told administrators to prepare for years of supply chain issues affecting paper, hardware and other things.

The election supply chain may not return to normal until 2026, said Ed Smith, a longtime veteran of election technology and administration who chairs a government-industry coordinating council that works on electoral security issues.

The delay in obtaining election materials is two to three times longer than the norm, a delay not seen since 1999 or 2000, Smith said. Costs are also higher, and election officials need to be prepared for one-off and unpredictable issues with transportation and pandemic-related shutdowns, he said.

Supply chain issues are largely triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by global factory shutdowns and a drop in the number of people in the workforce. They have been felt by a wide range of industries.

Election officials preparing for November’s midterm are also preparing for their own issues that could make it difficult to obtain the paper needed to print ballots, information inserts and other materials needed to organize an election.

“Certainly the supply of paper has been the most meager it has ever been”, said Jim Suver, co-chair of a federal election security task force that focuses on supply chain issues. The biggest crisis will begin in September, when all states will work for the same November election, he said.

Suver said hoarding was not a problem.

“There is not enough paper to hoard” he said. “It does not go through.”

Election officials have been urged to order their supplies early and prepare for shortages and delays.

The biggest risk is having an urgent request, such as the need for a large number of reprints, 10 days or 15 days before an election, Suver said. It will be crucial for jurisdictions to be extra careful in proofreading ballots so they don’t have to place new orders, Smith said.

Misprints have already occurred in this year’s primaries. In Oregon, election workers in Clackamas County had to transfer votes from tens of thousands of ballots that had fuzzy barcodes and were rejected by ballot counting machines. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a printing company sent out thousands of ballots with the wrong ID code, which meant they couldn’t be read by scanners.

The three-day meeting, which also covered issues such as insider threats to holding elections and how to connect with hard-to-reach communities, comes as election officials face growing threats amid false claims by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that the 2020 election was stolen.

Amy Cohen, executive director of NASED, warned meeting attendees to wear their name badges at the event so security can see they belong, but to remove them when moving around the city.

“Don’t advertise who you are and exactly why you’re here,” she says.

Cohen said meeting organizers coordinated with federal, state and local law enforcement for the event. The group was not live-tweeting or streaming the event, but there were no restrictions on attendees talking about it on social media.

“Please be mindful of what you post and remember that some of the people in this room face serious safety issues and we need to be respectful to keep everyone safe,” says Cohen.

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