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Hundreds of voters disenfranchised in Dauphin County election

Drop Box

A person drops off a mail-in ballot at an election ballot return box in Willow Grove, Pa., Oct. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By Sean Kitchen

November 16, 2023

Hundreds of voters in Dauphin County had their mail-in ballots tossed because of minor mistakes according to the county’s Office of Voter Registration. This could have impacted the county commissioners’ race, which was decided by less than 150 votes. 

Over 350 mail-in ballots were rejected in the extremely close Dauphin County Commissioners race, according to the Dauphin County Elections Office on Wednesday. Many of them could have been fixed had the Republican commissioners allowed voters to fix those mistakes, an option in Pennsylvania that is up to local officials whether to implement.

The race was too close to call on Election Day, but Justin Douglas, a progressive pastor who helped flip the commission for the first time in 100 years, ended the night leading by 42 votes.

Roxbury News posted a video to X, which was formally known as Twitter, of Dauphin County’s Office of Elections and Voter Registration reporting how many ballots were thrown out to the county commissioners. In total, 358 ballots were rejected.

According to Jerry Feaser, who is the Director of Dauphin County’s office of Elections and Voter Registration, 62 ballots were undated, 56 voters forgot their privacy envelope, 50 had incorrect dates, 29 were unsigned and nine voters mistakenly signed their privacy envelope. Feaser continues to list other errors.

“Voters shouldn’t be disenfranchised for trivial paperwork errors, especially when elections officials notice them in time for the voters to fix them. And most voters who are affected by this are elderly voters, not careless ones.” Adam Bonin, who is an election lawyer based in Philadelphia, said in a statement to The Keystone. “Having a Democratic majority on the elections board now gives these voters a second chance to make sure their voices will be heard in the crucial 2024 election and beyond.”

With Republicans in control of the board, Dauphin County Commissioners disenfranchise voters by not allowing them to cure their ballots and fix simple mistakes that include signature errors or a misdated or undated ballot. 

That’s going to change once Douglas is sworn in as county commissioner and Democrats take control of the board. 

Douglas told Bolts Magazine following the election that he wants to expand voter access in Dauphin County by adding more drop boxes throughout the county and by initiating a ballot curing process ahead of the 2024 elections. 

“Being a candidate who is ahead by 147 votes, we’ve learned that every single vote counts,” Douglas said in an interview with The Keystone. 

“This is a big part of our platform. I’m obviously trying to get ballot curing as part of the 2024 elections. I would just say the nature of those ballots not being considered is very important to the future integrity of our elections.”

 

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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