Coding error on ballots appears to have caused scanning issue on election day in Mercer County (updated)

A coding error on the paper ballots used for election day meant voters had to drop their ballots in scanner boxes to be scanned later at the Mercer County Board of Elections instead of voters being able to scan the ballots themselves at the polls. The mess also has delayed election results.

The county’s bipartisan election commission has been scanning all of the in-person ballots that were cast on election day. They have been working at the board of elections office.

A representative for Dominion Voting said the scanners were functioning properly but rejected the incorrectly printed ballots. “We are actively working with Royal Printing and Mercer County election officials on this issue,” the company said in a statement.

Bar codes on paper ballots relay information to the Dominion scanners about the contests that are being voted on. These marks could not be recognized by the machines in Mercer County on Tuesday. There were no such issues in other counties across the state.

Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello confirmed that the election day issue was that the coding marks printed on the paper ballots were not accepted by Dominion scanners when reached Thursday by email. An investigation that is underway was launched on Wednesday.

It’s unclear how such a problem could happen when the Dominion machines allegedly were tested the week before and the day before the election. Officials said Thursday afternoon that the ballot scanners were tested with the paper ballots prior to election day.

The problem was not unearthed during early voting the week before election day. A few voters who voted in person early in Princeton told Planet Princeton they voted by making their ballot selections on a touch screen. The voters said they then printed out their choices on a piece of paper and scanned it. They said they didn’t use the same paper ballots used on election day. “We had no problem at all at our voting machine inspection,” Sollami Covello said. “There is always pre-testing.”

Missing ballots

Another issue added to the scanner mess is that some ballots went missing. Ballots in three districts in Princeton and some districts in Robbinsville could not be found Wednesday, but the bags have since been located at the board of elections and are being counted, a county official confirmed.

As of Thursday, Nov. 10, the outcome of the Princeton Board of Education race has not changed. All three incumbents still lead the challengers. Incumbent Susan Kanter has 3,272 votes, Board President Dafna Kendal has 3,050 votes, and incumbent Deb Bronfeld has 2,905 votes. Newcomer Rita Rafalovsky has 2,390 votes and Lisa Wu has 1,525 votes.

A Dominion scanner used in Mercer County