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Ballots and other materials require special high-quality paper that some communities may find in short supply, experts warn.
With this year’s election season right around the corner, officials are warning that a shortage of paper for ballots, envelopes and other voting materials could create problems.
The paper required for ballots must be a specific type that is higher quality than other kinds, explained Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser with the Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan foundation that focuses on elections and other issues.
“It's difficult to know exactly what the impact will be because we are not sure at what point these supply deficits will be filled,” Patrick told Route Fifty.
“We have a situation where we have this high-quality ballot paper stock that we need for things ranging from voter registration forms, envelopes, provisional ballot forms, applications for ballots and even something as simple as a voter identification card,” she said, adding that U.S. elections are “still deeply rooted in the use of paper.”
Patrick and others raised the issue of potential paper shortages affecting elections, along with rising paper costs, during a National Association of Counties meeting in Washington, D.C. over the weekend.
As with other goods during the past year or so, supply chain kinks and labor shortages are among the factors blamed for shortages in the paper industry.
The Electoral Knowledge Network notes that printing ballots involves extensive quality control measures and can involve using paper with features like watermarks.
Patrick said big paper providers will be better positioned to fulfill orders than smaller print shops.“Large providers have some inventory,” she said. “Communities that are relying on the local print shop to order the envelopes or ballot paper may not be able to get them.”
Still, she voiced optimism that communities would find solutions. “This is one of the most important election cycles we have ever had,” Patrick said. “And this shortage should not stop people from getting out and voting.”
Andre Claudio is an assistant editor at Route Fifty.
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