A printing mistake on some Mobile County ballots in Tuesday’s election caused electronic voting machines to reject them — forcing poll workers to count roughly 3,000 ballots by hand into the early morning hours, Probate Court officials said today. “This little white dot,” said Probate Judge Don Davis, pointing to a white, donut-shaped mark barely one-tenth of an inch wide. The tiny error, though, ended up in an important spot, on the security markings that let the electronic machines know whether to count it. The markings look like a bar code stretching along the side of the ballot. The faulty marks appeared only on Republican primary ballots for precincts within the contested Mobile County Commission District 3. Not all of the District 3 ballots were affected, officials said. Poll workers at 12 precincts on Tuesday noticed that machines were rejecting some ballots as they were scanned in.
Probate Court staff, poll workers and Mobile County Sheriff’s deputies worked until 4 a.m. today counting thousands of ballots by hand after the emergency plan was implemented, officials said. Davis said that his office began to investigate the issue later that day. One administrator had noticed the white mark late Tuesday evening, after the hand-counting had already begun.
This morning, Probate Court workers simply filled in the white mark with black ink, and the ballots were then accepted and counted by the machines, he said. Even though it took all night, Davis said, “every ballot is secure.. . and every ballot was counted.” Interstate Printing & Graphics of Mobile was paid $150,000 for the ballots and all of the office supplies and signs used at the polls, according to Probate Court officials.