Burlington County will be reimbursed nearly $30,000 after it had to pay its employees overtime and hire additional workers to hand-count about 20,900 faulty paper mail-in ballots last month.
Election Graphics Inc. of North Bergen, N.J., has agreed to pay the costs after acknowledging it had printed ballots that could not be properly scanned because they were missing part of a bar code, said Eric Arpert, a county spokesman. The company had a $214,000 contract to print the ballots.
"It was as simple as a few dashed lines that were missing and that were not visibly detectable. . . . It was the part on the edge of the ballot that mapped it to a municipality," Arpert said Wednesday. The error was discovered the morning of Election Day, when the ballots are allowed under state law to be opened and scanned.
Under normal circumstances, the mail-in ballots can be read by scanners within a few hours, according to County Clerk Tim Tyler.
In Moorestown, Hainesport, and Delran, where the race for township council or committee was close, the hand count and the final tallies, made official more than a week after Election Day, were critical.
State law allows residents to request mail-in ballots before Election Day without having to declare a reason they will be unable to cast their votes at polling places that day.
Arpert said county officials plan to work with the vendor to prevent future problems with the mail-in ballots. He said they would "create a system whereby all the bar codes are checked and will have the printed version run through a machine prior to being mailed out."
The reimbursement by Election Graphics was first reported by the Burlington County Times.
The cost of the hand count included about $11,000 for overtime for election workers and sheriff's officers, and nearly $17,000 to bring in additional workers to complete the three-day task and verify the results, according to the county.
Joseph Dugan, chairman of the county Board of Elections, said the ballots being hand-counted had to be locked in a vault and guarded overnight by a sheriff's deputy.