Madison County voting machines having problems counting ballots, workers will try again when polls close

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Moisture in the air is the cause for election day problems at a number of Madison County poll locations, Probate Judge Tommy Ragland told WHNT News 19 this afternoon.

Ragland said the paper ballots swelled up due to moisture from the air overnight and as a result, the vote scanning machines can’t accept them.

Ragland said he hasn’t talked to every precinct, but his office has heard from a number of locations experiencing problems today.

Ragland said the ballots are housed at the precincts up to a few days before election day, with church polling places getting ballots on Monday.

“Ballots are swelling up,” he said. “It’s because the machines are calibrated so close, they’re not taking them. We’re using emergency bins to hold ballots. At the end of the day, when polls close, hopefully, they’ll have dried out enough.

“There are a lot of eyes on this, poll watchers, poll workers, they’ll feed those ballots in,” Ragland said. “Hopefully we won’t have to hand count them.”

Ragland said he doesn't have any idea how long it would take to hand count the affected ballots.

Ragland, who’s retiring this year, said they’ve dealt with moisture affecting ballots previously, but he said the scale this year is widespread.

He said poll workers have been advised to “push them a little bit” to see if that helps run ballots through.

The Associated Press quoted Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill saying he didn’t think the ballot problems in Madison County would persist. Merrill said he expected the ballots to dry out and be counted via machine.

Ragland also said there are reports of long lines at precincts around Madison County, but he offered no predictions for turnout.

WHNT News 19 spoke with the Alabama Secretary of State's office and they said they will be reviewing the circumstances leading up to the damp ballot issues.

The Secretary of State's office also said that voters who had to place their ballots in emergency bins should know that their votes will be counted because it's the law.