Lancaster County is ready for Tuesday’s primary, and the Elections Office anticipates having the core count done by 11 p.m. that evening, Chief Clerk Christa Miller told the Election Board Monday morning.
That means all valid mail-in ballots will be opened, sorted and counted, as well as in-person votes at all 240 county precincts, Miller said.
By the numbers: Lancaster County primary election
- Eligible voters: 294,628
- Mail ballots sent out: 22,076
- Mail ballots returned as of Monday morning: 15,553
Source: Christa Miller, Chief Clerk, Lancaster County Elections Office
Miller said she’s “very confident” the county will hit its 11 p.m. goal. The county has received fewer mail-in ballots than in previous elections, and it has six high-speed scanners to deploy, versus the three slower ones it used up to now.
- Related: FAQ: The May 16 primary election
Pennsylvania does not allow counties to open and sort mail-in ballots — a process known as “pre-canvassing” — prior to Election Day. County officials across the state have complained that this makes it difficult to complete ballot counting promptly after polls close, as occurred routinely before the advent of no-excuse mail voting.
Last year, the state Legislature made funding available to counties to bolster election administration, but pre-Election Day pre-canvassing remains disallowed.
Following Tuesday’s count, the county will still have to tabulate military, overseas and provisional ballots. That’s standard in any election, Miller said; and those ballots are a tiny fraction of the total.
Adding somewhat to their number, and further complicating Miller’s task this week, is the error discovered on the county’s mail-in ballots just as they were to be mailed. They instructed voters to select just one candidate for their party’s Superior Court nomination, rather than the correct number, two. About 3,000 mistaken ballots were sent out before the error was found.
Voters were instructed to discard the erroneous ballot and instead fill out replacement ballots that were sent out. Nevertheless, the Elections Office has received about 750 of the mistaken ballots, Miller said.
Many of those have since been superseded by voters’ replacement ballots. More replacement ballots are likely to come in before the 8 p.m. Election Day deadline; voters also have the option to vote a provisional ballot at their polling place.
After Election Day, the Elections Office will collate the mistaken ballots, replacement ballots and provisional ballots to ensure that each voter votes only once.
If a voter filled out and sent in the original, mistaken ballot and took no other action, that ballot will count, Miller said: Its markings will be transferred to a valid ballot and scanned in.
Ballots that are superseded by provisional or replacement ballots are retained in order to preserve a clear, verifiable paper trail, but are set aside and not counted. The county’s tracking ensures that each voter votes only once.
On Tuesday, the county will pilot electronic poll books at six precincts. Each will have paper poll books as backup as well, Miller said.
Pollbooks contain voters’ name, address, party affiliation and signature, and voters sign them to receive their ballots. Advocates say e-books make election administration easier and more reliable.