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Allegheny County officials unable to verify reports of voters turned away at the polls Tuesday

An election worker continues the process in counting ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Mercer County Elections Board in Mercer, Pa.
Keith Srakocic
An election worker continues the process in counting ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Mercer County Elections Board in Mercer, Pa.

After votes are counted and certified, election officials believe the 2022 primary will have earned a higher turnout than usual. Despite the high turnout, state and local officials claim many reports of trouble at polling places Tuesday were routine.

The Pennsylvania Department of State said it received 1,200 calls about polls opening late, precincts running low on ballots, instances of voter intimidation and other issues. The department characterized most of the calls as standard for any election.

Start your morning with today's news on Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania.

In Allegheny County, some polling places reported a low ballot supply Tuesday, according to Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of State. “In Allegheny County, some polling places ran low on ballots. The county delivered ballots to those precincts and voting continued uninterrupted,” Chapman said at a press conference Tuesday evening.

“We did receive one report that voters were turned away at a polling place because there were low ballots there,” she said. “More ballots were delivered to the county and to the precincts… I believe those voters were also contacted.”

According to an Allegheny County spokesperson, there have been no verifiable reports to the county about voters being turned away. When officials attempted to validate claims of these instances, they determined those claims to be unfounded.

As for reports about some polling places receiving fewer than two dozen ballots for a particular party, a county spokesperson said locations are given ballots proportional to the number of voters registered there. If a location has more registered Democrats than Republicans, it will receive more Democratic ballots.

In Ross Township, multiple requests were made for more ballots throughout the day. Those additional ballots were delivered, but according to the county spokesperson, officials received those ballots back and then some. In other cases, officials found that poll workers were not properly sorting through materials to locate ballots.

The county prepared 25% more ballots than necessary ahead of Tuesday to confront any shortage. Once those were distributed, additional ballots were printed on demand and delivered to polling locations. Poll workers were also able to use Express Vote machines to create ballots on site.

The final tally for Allegheny County will take a few days to come in. Thirty-one precincts have been unable to report ballots from in-person voters Tuesday after workers forgot to submit memory sticks that calculate votes as they’re fed into the scanner. Such a mistake is not particularly rare according to those with knowledge of elections processes. But with races as tight as the 12th Congressional primary, an error like this is more easily noticed.

Turnout was higher than average for a primary election Tuesday. According to the county’s website, more than 36% of registered voters cast their ballot in the primary. A county spokesperson said typically, 30% of Democrats and 35% of Republicans vote in the primary in Allegheny County.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.