allot shortages and misprints plagued Tuesday’s elections in spots across Pennsylvania — even as the state is striving to rebuild trust, especially among Republicans, in the voting process.
We find it inexcusable that some voters arrived at polling places, only to be told there were no ballots — as happened in several counties, including York and Delaware.
Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid called the voting problems “isolated” and Gov. Tom Wolf said he believed the election went smoothly overall.
But we see these mishaps as collectively representing a lack of focus and leadership at a time when every movement falls under the critical lens of political scrutiny.
Want the people to trust you? Don’t give them reasons to do otherwise.
Turnout was higher than expected in some regions, with the ballot questions concerning the power of a governor to control emergency declarations getting people to the polls for a municipal primary.
Here are some of the problems, as reported by CNHI’s John Finnerty and the Associated Press:
•In Luzerne County, a programming error caused some Republican primary ballots to be mislabeled as Democratic ballots on electronic voting machines. Luzerne elections director Bob Morgan told the AP that the error only appeared on the screen, with the ballots printing correctly as Republican documents and primary races.
•In Fayette County, some ballots were printed without a barcode that would align them to be optically scanned and counted. Degraffenreid said ballots that were already cast with the missing barcode were kept separate from other ballots and counted by hand, while additional ballots with the correct barcode were printed for voters who arrived later in the day.
•In Lancaster County, a printing error meant about 15,000 mail-in ballots couldn’t be scanned and had to be counted by hand. Also in Lancaster, about 2,700 voters received mail-in ballots incorrectly informing them that they did not have to include postage on the return envelope. The Postal Service said it still delivered those mail ballots. And about 100 to 150 residents in two Lancaster County towns received mail-in ballots with someone else’s name on the return envelopes.
•In Delaware County, Republicans said polling places in many towns ran out of GOP ballots – with voters forced to wait in line for more to be delivered.
Tom McGarrigle, chairman of the Delaware County GOP, called on the local district attorney to launch “a thorough and independent investigation.” McGarrigle accused election officials of using “voter suppression techniques” against Republican voters.
Jim Allen, director of the Delaware County Bureau of Elections, said shortages affected voters in both parties and denied insinuations of a manipulation of voting.
Republican leaders in the General Assembly jumped on the scattered problems as an indication that “our Election Code is in dire need of significant reform focused on accountability, security and training,” according to a joint statement issued by House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre County, and State Rep. Seth Grove, R-York County. Grove is the chairman of the House state government committee.
“Pennsylvanians deserve to show up to their polling place trusting in the election process,” the lawmakers said.
“They deserve the ability to leave their polling place knowing that their vote was cast accurately.”
With some still clinging to false claims of election fraud from November, it was unthinkable that Pennsylvania would have such widespread issues in May.
We agree with the Republicans who are crying “foul” this time.
These mishaps demand accountability – and a plan for making sure we don’t see a recurrence in the fall.
Elections officials at the state and county levels can and must do better.
— The (Johnstown) Tribune-Democrat