Iowa Ballot Scanner Jams Because of Hand Sanitizer

by Jennifer Shea

Iowa officials passed out 1,500 gallons of hand sanitizer ahead of the election. Now, hand sanitizer has caused a ballot scanner to malfunction.

In a Des Moines polling station, a ballot scanner stopped working Tuesday morning, Iowa Public Radio reported. Officials suspected the breakdown was due to voters and poll workers overusing the hand sanitizer.

Iowa Officials Blame Voters

A spokesperson for the Iowa secretary of state told the Associated Press that it was the hand sanitizer on voters’ hands that caused the ballot scanner to malfunction.

Officials repaired the machine in about an hour, the AP reported.

Iowa secretary of state spokesperson Kevin Hall said some voters did not allow all the hand sanitizer to dry before they touched the ballots. He said that caused a buildup of sanitizer in the machine, which eventually led to it jamming. 

Worried about another malfunction, poll workers pushed the hand sanitizing station toward the back of the line. That way, they hoped, voters’ hands would dry off before they got their ballots.

Elections in the Age of Coronavirus

The hand sanitizer is not the only thing that’s new in this election. Iowa officials also handed out 200,000 face masks to the county auditors who are overseeing the election process.

Emmet County Auditor Amy Sathoff told Iowa Public Radio that they were also asking voters to mask up.

“We are trying to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Sathoff said. “I would ask that if they could, please wear a mask. Protect my precinct workers and themselves.”

And officials have also made changes to the ballots themselves. Those haven’t necessarily been easy for poll workers to navigate.

“One of the new things this election is the disposable protector that goes over the ballot and trying to feed it into the machine is a little bit tough,” Nan Benson, election director for Marshall County, told Iowa Public Radio. “But it’s nice with COVID that we don’t have to wipe all those plastic sleeves down each time.”

Iowa is viewed as a swing state in the battle between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.