Star-Telegram

Firm dropped by county defends ballot quality

- BY BRIAN LOPEZ blopez@star-telegram.com

A company that printed Tarrant County’s mail-in ballots that were rejected over a scanning issue said the sheets did not have quality issues.

Tarrant County canceled its contract with Runbeck Election Services to avoid the scanning issue that surfaced during the November 2020 election and questions about election integrity.

A spokespers­on for Runbeck said the company printed over 80 million ballots without error, but Tarrant was the only county that had issues.

“We take every report of an issue seriously and have been frustrated with our lack of access to the ballots to help validate the problem,” the company said in a statement. “We remain committed to

Texas and Tarrant County to help in any way possible to determine the exact issue.”

The company said it was not given a chance to see why some ballots weren’t read by the scanners. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the county did reach out to Runbeck officials and told them they had a limited time to check the ballots before they needed to be counted for the election.

Whitley also said the company printed the county’s ballots with an inkjet printer and the ink sprayed over the bar codes, deeming the affected ballots illegible. A Runbeck spokespers­on said the company uses HP inkjet printers, but they are profession­al/industrial grade and it didn’t have issues with any of the other millions of ballots printed.

The county will look for another state-approved election services company, but said Runbeck is welcome to bid to be the county’s provider again when the time comes, Whitley said.

Damaged bar codes are not uncommon as people can damage them on their own, but last fall it happened in a big wave. This required the county’s ballot board — made up of Democrats, Republican­s and Libertaria­ns — to redo the ballots by hand.

When a ballot’s bar code cannot be read by the mail-in ballot sorting machinery, those ballots have to be manually recreated by election workers — who work in pairs, with each member from a different political party.

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