Blame Game In Boulder Ballot Counting Snafu Begins

Dust, Creases Slow Ballot Count In Boulder

Nearly two full days after the presidential election was called, election workers in Boulder County were still counting ballots Wednesday afternoon.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 113,000 of the 166,000 ballots cast had been counted.

Counting machines were not reading some ballots correctly because of dust on the ballots, possibly coming from the creases after the mail-in ballots were folded.

"I would squarely say there are definitely issues with the printing and with the quality of the paper the ballots were printed on," said Peter Lichtenheld, a spokesman for Hart InterCivic, the company that makes the software in the machines that count the ballots. "You have to have high quality standards for your paper."

But a spokesman for the company that printed the ballots, Integrated Voting Solutions, said the ballots were printed using the exact same ink and the exact same paper as years past. The spokesman said, "Nothing has changed." The spokesman also said they are certified by Hart.

Hillary Hall, Boulder County's clerk and recorder, told 7NEWS they hope to be finished counting by midnight Wednesday, but the dust issue will slow down election results.

"To be here at this point is disappointing and it's disappointing for our voters here in Boulder County," said Hall. "I'm doing this because the most important thing in an election is the accuracy of the outcome."

The dust is making the optical scanners think some people overvoted or filled in too many boxes. "Phantom votes" as they're being called. Dust on the scanner lens can cause a faint streak to appear vertically down a scanned ballot.

A team of two people, with a Republican and a Democrat, are visually inspecting each and every ballot to make sure they are accurately counted. False reads are marked on a computer monitor in orange. Corrections are marked in green.

Hall's priorities are accuracy first and speed second. She said for this election she used a different vendor but the same machines she has used in the past, and she has never had this problem before.

Representatives from Kodak were also in Boulder Wednesday, cleaning glass parts on the scanning machines.

"It's kind of disappointing. We tested 10,000 ballots. We've worked hard to make sure this is an accurate election, and we've been running 24 hours to do that. We'll continue to do what we need to do to get this election processed," she said.

Hall said she is in problem-solving mode, but soon she will be trying to figure out what went wrong and make sure it never happens again.

Boulder County appeared to be the only county in the state affected by dust.

In the 2004 election, it took the county nearly a week to process all the ballots.