Back To The Future? Washington Co. Voters Use Paper Ballots For Senate Race

Apr 26, 2016

Counties across the state are turning to paper ballots in a scramble to add Joseph Vodvarka to the primary ballot after a supreme court decision said he should be reinstated.
Credit Dawn Endico / Flickr

Electronic ballots or paper ballots? Voters in Washington County today will use both.

Counties across the commonwealth have been scrambling to adhere to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision last week that ordered the reinstatement of Joseph Vodvarka to the Democratic primary ballot in the U.S. Senate contest.

On March 30, Commonwealth Court removed his name from the ballot citing an insufficient number of voter signatures on his nominating petitions. Vodvarka appealed, and the state Supreme Court overturned the low court’s decision exactly one week before the primary. Now, county elections boards are racing to adjust their ballots.

Allegheny and 63 other counties have been able to insert Vodvarka’s name onto their electronic ballots. But voters in Washington County will receive two ballots: paper ballots for the Senate race and electronic ballots for everything else.

Wes Parry, assistant election director in Washington County, said that is to ensure residents who want to vote for Vodvarka have the option to do so.

“We essentially created an entirely separate race with a separate ballot and managed to get the print proofs to the print shop and have the print shop print paper ballots for each precinct,”  said Wes Parry, assistant elections director in Washington County.

But those who used absentee ballots will not be able to re-cast their votes, said Parry.

“In this case, if somebody wrote in Mr. Vodvarka because his name wasn’t actually on the absentees, we will count that as a vote for him,” he said.

According to Wanda Murren at the Pennsylvania Bureau of Elections, officials at the polls in Lancaster and Columbia counties will hand voters an “advisory” that if they wish to vote for Vodvarka, they must write his name in on the electronic ballot.

That wasn’t an option that Washington County considered.

“I mean, if I was a candidate whose name was supposed to appear on the ballot and it didn’t appear there anywhere and people were just saying, ‘if you want to vote for him, write him in,’ I would be highly upset about that really disadvantages me as a candidate,” said Parry.

This is Vodvarka’s second run at the U.S. Senate.  He lost to incumbent Bob Casey in the 2012 Democratic primary.