Polling places run out of ballots in Pennsylvania primary

Pennsylvania election officials ran out of ballots in several counties on 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 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 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. Delaware County officials acknowledged a ballot shortage at some polling places, but asserted that no one was disenfranchised and said the 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.

Statewide, polling places that ran out 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.

Degraffenreid said there were other "isolated incidents in a handful of counties," but that the election otherwise ran smoothly.

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.

Elsewhere, a "coding error" in Luzerne County, in the northeast, caused Republican primary ballots to be mislabeled as Democratic ballots on some voting machines.

A vendor's programming error caused GOP primary ballots throughout the county to have "an error in the header when displayed on the viewing screen," according to Luzerne County elections director Bob Morgan. But he 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.

Morgan said signs were put up at polling places and a message was posted on the county website informing people about the situation.

"We wish to assure all voters that their ballots will be correctly counted," he 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. Since county ballot scanners used to count the votes were set up to scan the pages in sequence, they would be unable to read the out-of-order ballots, necessitating a hand-count, officials said.

LNP newspaper reported that earlier in the month, about 2,700 voters were alerted that some had received incorrect voting instructions telling them that they didn't need to pay postage, and 100 other voters received incorrect return envelopes intended for other voters.

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.


Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania. Associated Press reporter Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this story.


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