Election Officials Fear Paper Ballot Shortage

Supply chain issues, and even truck driver shortages, cause worry about handling voting
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2022 3:38 PM CDT
Unusual Supply Chain Worry: Paper Ballots
A poll worker talks to a voter about to cast a paper ballot in Atlanta in November 2020.   (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

The same supply chain problems that have limited the availability of consumer goods have election officials worried about having enough paper ballots and envelopes for this year's voting. Orders are being placed much earlier than usual, which complicates budgeting, Politico reports. "Sometimes that means ordering in advance of the fiscal year that you would have budgeted for those materials," said Dean Logan, Los Angeles County's registrar of voters. Even that doesn't always work. A township clerk in Michigan ordered 72,000 envelopes in mid-January that haven't arrived yet.

On Friday, a House committee invited election officials, vendors, and others to a Capitol roundtable on what it called the ballot paper supply shortage. The cost of paper has risen 40% in the past few years, said the CEO of one of the largest election vendors in the country. Still, Jeff Ellington said he's been able to fill orders but not deliver them. "It's not just getting the paper, it is getting the truck drivers," he said. Amy Cohen, head of the National Association of State Elections Directors, said the fact that primaries are spread out may be keeping the shortages from being widely noticed, but there's a crunch time ahead. "In November, everybody is going to need everything on essentially the same timeframe," she said.

A Detroit printer said a shortage of pulp and resources being used by mills to make packaging materials are contributing to the problem, per ClickonDetroit. "Our democracy is at risk" unless government steps in to ensure paper goes toward making ballots and envelopes, Bradley Thompson said. Election officials, including Democratic secretaries of state, have asked for more federal money to help secure supplies. A coalition has made ads for its campaign to improve election infrastructure. An Arizona ad shows a woman dressed as a firefighter, saying, "I wouldn’t fight fires without a hose." The voiceover adds, "So why do we expect officials to run elections without the equipment they need?" (More paper ballots stories.)

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