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United Way of Lancaster County


County recalls mail-in ballots after finding error

In this file photo, volunteers process mail-in ballots at the County Government Center on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

The Lancaster County Board of Elections said Monday that it has discovered an error on the ballots being mailed to voters for the May primary election.

On both Republican and Democratic ballots, voters are allowed to select up to two candidates for the statewide Superior Court race. However, the ballots incorrectly tell voters to select only one candidate, the board said.

“Prior to the error being detected, 18,554 ballots were processed by the Postal Service to be mailed to voters,” the board’s statement said. “Postmasters have been contacted and all local post offices are currently pulling, counting, and safely securing ballots for the Board of Elections to retrieve.”

All 18,554 ballots have been marked “canceled and replaced” in SURE, the state’s system for tracking mail-in ballots, the board said. As of 1 p.m. Monday, more than 15,000 incorrect ballots had been recovered.

All voters who signed up to vote by mail will receive a ballot with an outer envelope marked “REPLACEMENT,” the board said. The replacement ballots will have the correct wording and will come with a colored page of instructions.

Voters who have received the erroneous ballot but not yet returned it should discard it. Voters who have returned the erroneous ballot should complete and return the replacement one.

Voters whose contact information is in the SURE system may be notified that their ballot has been canceled and they are being a fresh one.

Voters can expect to begin receiving mail-in ballots next Monday, April 24. The county Elections Office must receive completed ballots by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, May 16.

Election complexity

Lancaster County is home to 60 municipalities and 16 school districts, making elections extremely challenging to administer, as they are across Pennsylvania.

Printing errors have been an ongoing concern. In 2021, county election workers had to re-mark more than 12,000 ballots by hand due to a printing error by Michigan Election Resources, now known as Plerus. Earlier, some mail-in voters had received ballots with incorrect instructions or incorrect return envelopes.

Those mistakes led the county to end its contract and select a new vendor, NPC. In the 2022 primary, however, NPC made a mistake that prevented about 16,000 ballots from being scanned, about two-thirds of the total.

County commissioners Ray D’Agostino and Josh Parsons, both Republicans, have consistently criticized Pennsylvania’s authorization of no-excuse mail-in balloting, saying it creates too much administrative complexity for counties and raises election integrity concerns.

Commissioner John Trescot, a Democrat, has defended mail-in balloting, saying it works without problems in other states and that reforms in Pennsylvania, such as allowing pre-canvassing — getting ballots ready before Election Day so they can be counted promptly — would ease counties’ headaches.