Polling Places Run Out of Ballots in Pennsylvania Primary

A voter steps from the voting booth after casting a ballot in the Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia, Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Associated Press

May 19, 2021

Counties received more than 550,000 mailed ballots, according to the Department of State. The agency said in-person turnout Tuesday was typical.

Pennsylvania election officials ran out of ballots in several counties Tuesday amid higher-than-expected turnout for an off-year primary in which voters had a chance to weigh in on the governor’s emergency powers.

York, Delaware and a few other counties ran short, but state election officials said voters were able to use alternative means to cast their ballots on several proposed constitutional amendments, an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and other statewide and local races.

Republicans in Delaware County, outside Philadelphia, asserted that polling places in many towns in the Democratic-controlled county ran out of GOP ballots, with some waiting in vain to be resupplied. Republican officials said there were long lines and that some people left without voting.

“This county spent millions of taxpayer dollars dollars hiring new people and buying new technology and they still can’t run an election right. This was a complete failure of leadership and accountability and I’m calling on the district attorney to launch a thorough and independent investigation,” Tom McGarrigle, chair of the Delaware County GOP, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

He accused the county of deploying “voter suppression techniques” that harmed Republican voters.

Delaware County officials pushed back strongly, confirming a ballot shortage at some polling places but asserting that no one was disenfranchised. County officials said they adhered to state rules governing how many ballots a county should order, adding that ballot shortages impacted voters of both major parties.

“The county regrets that some voters had longer wait times,” said Jim Allen, director of the Delaware County Bureau of Elections.

The administration of Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf acknowledged that polling places in several counties ran out of ballots but said the election, overall, ran smoothly.

Polling places that were short of ballots “quickly took steps to supplement their supply and voting proceeded in those counties uninterrupted,” Acting Secretary of State Veronica W. Degraffenreid said late Tuesday, after polls closed.

Counties received more than 550,000 mailed ballots in the third election in which no-excuse mail-in voting became an option for Pennsylvania voters, according to the Department of State. The agency said in-person turnout Tuesday was typical.

Officials noted isolated incidents in a handful of other counties.

In Luzerne County, a vendor’s programming error caused Republican primary ballots to be mislabeled as Democratic ballots on some voting machines, officials said. County elections director Bob Morgan said the error only appeared on the screen, and the ballot printed correctly as a Republican ballot with GOP primary race results.

The Department of State said it confirmed that Republican voters were shown GOP slates of candidates and that their votes were being recorded correctly. State elections officials said they were awaiting word from Luzerne County on how many polling places and about how many voters had been affected.

The issue caused a flood of complaints as soon as polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“We wish to assure all voters that their ballots will be correctly counted,” Morgan said.

In Lancaster County, elections officials said a printing error meant that more than half of all mail-in ballots would have to be counted by hand, significantly delaying final results. The Lancaster County Board of Elections said in a statement that about 14,000 multi-sheet ballots were printed in the wrong order.

And in Fayette County, the Department of State said it appeared that some ballots were “printed with an inaccurate barcode that would have allowed ballots to be optically scanned.” Those ballots were to be stored separately and counted by hand.


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