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Counties confirm Pennsylvania's general election went smoothly

Election 2021 Pennsylvania
Matt Rourke
An election worker helps a voter into a booth at a polling place located at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

Pennsylvania counties confirmed voting in this week’s election went smoothly and no issues have cropped up that could affect the outcome of any races.

Small glitches in places like Montgomery and Lehigh counties were similar to things that happen every election, the Department of State said. Officials in York, Dauphin and Lancaster counties Wednesday all said they had the proper resources to get results in high-priority races posted in a matter of hours.

Most votes for statewide judicial contests, for instance, were counted and posted Wednesday without issue.

Several counties reported about 32 percent of registered voters turned out at the polls or returned a mail ballot by Tuesday night, slightly above the turnout officials predicted on Monday.

“We had no issues that I’m aware of with respect to our elections, whether in-person or with mail ballots,” Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said. “I would say it went smooth [sic] here.”

Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid chalked up the success to experience: counties have now run four elections since lawmakers expanded mail-in voting rules and dumped the straight party ticket, among other things, in 2019.

“They’re perfecting their processes, [and] our voters are also getting used to voting with no-excuse mail voting,” Degraffenreid said at a Tuesday night press conference. 

The election is not over yet for most county workers. Many election departments have thousands of write-in votes to count and can’t start doing so until Friday per state rules.

York County spokesperson Mark Walters said 20,000 voters there wrote in their preferred candidates in certain races. He didn’t give specifics about which races, but counties have been commonly seeing write-in votes in elections for school boards and municipal positions. Commissioner D’Agostino said 33,000 did so in Lancaster County, and expects the number will increase as the county sifts through military, overseas and provisional ballots.

That work will mostly affect a handful of school board and municipal races, and is expected to take several days. Both counties said Wednesday that each vote will be counted by hand one at a time, by a single person.

Walters explained the slow process ensures write-in votes are attributed to the right candidate.

“There are people who write in Mickey Mouse, who write Jesus Christ,” he said.

Degraffenreid said counting will drag on for a few more days in some places, and encouraged patience.

“Counties are committed to counting votes as quickly as they can, but their priority is and must be to accurately and securely count every single eligible vote,” she said Tuesday night.

Results in all races will remain unofficial until they are certified by election officials later this month. Dauphin County expects that will wrap up by Nov. 17.

Sam Dunklau reports on Harrisburg for WESA and Pennsylvania's other public radio stations. He previously covered Illinois state government for NPR member station WUIS in Springfield, IL.
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