A mistake by a company that prints ballots for several Pennsylvania counties rendered thousands of ballots mailed on Tuesday unreadable as voters decided the contested U.S. governor and Senate primaries in one of the nation’s most important states.
Authorities in Lancaster County, the sixth most populous in the state, said the problem involved at least 21,000 mailed ballots, of which only a third were scanned correctly. The flaw will force election officials to remake ballots that cannot be read by the machine, a laborious process that could take several days. Officials in the GOP-controlled county have promised that all ballots will be counted eventually.
“Citizens deserve to have accurate election results and they deserve to have them on election night, not days later,” Josh Parsons, a Republican and vice chairman of the county council of commissioners, told a news conference. , we will not have final election results from these ballots by mail probably for several days, which is very, very frustrating for us.”
The Lancaster Board of Elections, of which Parsons is a member, renewed its criticism of a 2019 state voting law that expanded mail-in voting but barred counties from opening mail-in ballots before Election Day to check for errors.
The council said the law, which was passed by the legislature with bipartisan support, also forces counties to use vendors to print ballots rather than doing them in-house.
“Law 77 is unsustainable for us as counties to continue working on elections and not have problems like this,” said Ray D’Agostino, chairman of the Lancaster council.
The supplier’s error left county officials with the task of hand-marking thousands of new ballots, a process that was due to begin Wednesday morning. For ballots that will not be digitized, county election officials will recreate voters’ choices on blank ballots and then digitize them.
Lancaster County had to use a similar process during the primaries last year due to a misprint from a different supplier.
Christa Miller, head of voter registration, said a poll worker will read each voter’s choices, a second clerk will record them on a blank ballot, and an observer will ensure the choices are marked correctly.
“Our top priority is accuracy and not how quickly we can do something,” she said.
County officials said the contractor, NPC based in Claysburg, Pennsylvania, sent the county test ballots with the correct identification code but used the wrong code in the ones sent to voters.
NPC, which replaced the supplier laid off after last year’s mistake, did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment. D’Agostino said the NPC took “full responsibility”.
The Pennsylvania Department of State said it was aware of the problem in Lancaster County, which was for Donald Trump about 16 percentage points over Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race. Spokeswoman Ellen Lyon said no other county has reported similar problems.
Pennsylvania is one of five states holding primaries on Tuesday, along with Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oregon.
In North Carolina, election officials were investigating delays at some polling stations.
Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said officials are examining whether problems at the polls delayed the opening of elections in three counties – Gates, Warren and Wilson. Officials were trying to determine whether the delays left anyone unable to vote and whether voting hours would need to be extended.
“With more than 2,600 polling places open and the possibility of delays in three, I think that’s a good batting average,” Bell said during a conference call with reporters.
North Carolina voters cast about 580,000 advance ballots, the vast majority of them at in-person polling places. That’s more than double the advance ballots released during the 2018 primaries.
Bell said the high turnout “is indicative, we hope, of North Carolina’s faith and trust in election officials who hold elections for them.”