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Pennsylvania Department of State addresses three Election Day issues, including two in midstate counties

Polling places in Lancaster County, Allegheny County, and Berks County reported problems that were subsequently resolved.

  • Robby Brod
The rush to count hundreds of thousands of mail ballots in Pennsylvania won’t kick off until 7 a.m. on Election Day — or, in some counties, even later.

Matt Smith / For Spotlight PA

The rush to count hundreds of thousands of mail ballots in Pennsylvania won’t kick off until 7 a.m. on Election Day — or, in some counties, even later.

Pennsylvania’s primaries mostly went smoothly, but there were three incidents that prompted state officials to respond.

Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, said about 22,000 mail-in ballots in Lancaster County printed by a new vendor had a code that couldn’t be read by the scanner.

“To address this, the department recommends the best practice of assigning two-person teams to handmark new ballots. One will read out the marking from the original ballot; the second person will mark the ballot,” she said. “There’s also an observer who watches the process to make sure the re-marked ballot is accurate.”

She said it will take “days” to count the affected ballots, which involves hand-counting them and putting them through the county-owned optical scan machine.

Chapman said other counties in Pennsylvania use the same vendor, but the issue was contained to the Lancaster County ballots.

Election officials in Berks County reported programming errors with their new electronic poll books. As a result, some polling places opened late, and lines were reported at about two dozen precincts.

The electronic poll books were subsequently removed from service, and the votes were tabulated using backup paper poll books. While the primaries were ongoing, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas ordered the affected polls to remain open until 9 p.m.

In Allegheny County, some precincts didn’t have enough ballots for everyone who showed up to vote, and some voters were turned away. Eventually, the county delivered more blank ballots, and voting continued. Chapman said she believes affected voters were contacted after being turned away.

She said every incident reported was resolved by the appropriate authorities.

Chapman said there were confirmed instances of voter intimidation in Philadelphia, Mifflin County, Bucks County, and Allegheny County. She did not specify how many incidents occurred but said that each situation was reported to and handled by local law enforcement.

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