Worldwide paper shortage causing concerns for balloting ahead of midterm elections

‘I think we’re going to need some level of government action to make sure that paper isn’t diverted elsewhere’

A worldwide paper shortage is having a ripple effect. Some retailers can’t print catalogs, and prices for direct mail are far more expensive than in years past. It also means longtime printers like the Detroit Legal News and Inland Press started in September of 2021 trying to prepare an adequate supply to print ballots and absentee ballot return envelopes for this year’s elections.

DETROIT – A worldwide paper shortage is having a ripple effect. Some retailers can’t print catalogs, and prices for direct mail are far more expensive than in years past.

It also means longtime printers like the Detroit Legal News and Inland Press started in September of 2021 trying to prepare an adequate supply to print ballots and absentee ballot return envelopes for this year’s elections.

“I don’t have the paper on my floor yet, so I’m not completely comfortable,” said Bradley Thompson, President of the Detroit Legal News and Inland Press. “I’m still losing sleep over this.”

Thompson has been printing ballots for 30 years, and never has he encountered anything like this. Typically, printers would order the needed paper three months before an election.

There are multiple factors contributing to the shortage. A pulp shortage, mills using resources to make packaging materials, and then supply chain logistics problems.

The shortage became apparent last year; it’s why Thompson has commitments for adequate supplies but still worries if it will actually show up. It’s why he’s in Washington DC this week to ask for some help from the federal government.

“I think we’re going to need some level of government action to make sure that paper isn’t diverted elsewhere,” Thompson said. “That it’s going to election printers or to make envelopes for elections, our democracy is at risk without this happening.”

And then there’s the whole price issue with scarcity as the price will begin to go up. Thompson says he doesn’t know what to quote these jobs right now because he doesn’t know what the product’s final cost will be as those costs get passed along to local units of government.


About the Authors:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.