The Nagging Detail That Prevents Elections Officials From Placing a Sticker Over Flawed Bar Codes on Ballots

The ballot-scanning machines don’t like stickers.

Just saw your column [”Why Can’t Clackamas County Just Sticker Over Those Blurry Bar Codes?” WW, June 8] and, unfortunately, found your email [asking about this] in my spam folder. We’re starting to get questions about the sticker idea, and I’m concerned that misinformation is spreading. Would you consider writing an update? —Ben Morris, Oregon Secretary of State’s Office

I would have gotten back to you sooner, Ben, but—would you believe it?—I only just now saw your message. Anyway, I’m happy to fight misinformation arising from the Clackamas County snafu; our electoral process gets enough grief when things are running smoothly. (On a related note, does anyone else find it ironic that grumpy old people who don’t trust postal voting are the same ones who still pay bills by mailing a paper check?)

But first, in a spirit of public service entirely unrelated to the fact that a clarification won’t fill an entire column, I’d like to talk about spam filters. Who among us has not sent an important (to us, anyway) email only to have it mistaken for an entreaty to E@rn Bitc0in Whi£e Y0u S!eep?

Vigorous spam defense inevitably produces some collateral damage. (One government flack told me she checks her spam folder for mail from media outlets for this very reason.) If you’re concerned your messages aren’t getting through, there are two things you can do: (1) Stop signing emails “Yours in Free XXX Viagra Singles in Your Area”; (2) use a service like mail-tester.com to check your spam score. Who knew?

Now, the clarification: Readers of that June 8 column (hi, Mom) will recall my observation that hand-copying each ballot—tedious though it was—was administratively the path of least resistance, since it required no initiative, only dogged adherence to protocol. However, there was another, less bureaucratic but probably more important reason: The ballot-scanning machines don’t like stickers.

“Adding a sticker impacts the thickness of the ballot and can jam the machines,” says secretary of state spokesman Ben Morris, whom I guess I’m not addressing directly anymore. Morris said officials would also be concerned about the effect of the stickers’ adhesive on a large-volume scanning machine, which “works by moving paper quickly through a track. You don’t want adhesive anywhere near those things.” (Especially after midnight.)

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.