LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The bad news: This year, as opposed to last year, national media are in the room watching.
The good news: May 2022’s manual mail-in ballot count — made necessary, like in May 2021, because of a ballot printing error that made many ballots unreadable by high-speed ballot scanners — is going far more quickly than last time.
The reasons: More people doing the work and ballots that are only about half as long (two pages, not four) for workers to copy onto scannable ballots.
Still, “I was like, ‘Oh no, here we go again,” Ray D’Agostino (R), Lancaster County’s president commissioner and election board chairman, said Wednesday, characterizing his reaction when he got the news Tuesday.
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here.
Out of about 22,000 mail-in ballots the county received, about 16,000 had the error that made them unscannable. Of those, about 4,000 remained late Wednesday to be duplicated and scanned, putting workers on track to finish Thursday, about a week ahead of the May 2021 pace.
As in 2021, speed is a priority but not the top one. “We will get it done as fast as we can, but it must be accurate,” said Christa Miller, the county’s chief clerk.
Representatives from the Republican and Democratic parties are observing the process, as are — this is the reason cameras from national cable news channels are in the room — representatives of the Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick campaigns.
D’Agostino estimated that — in line with a statewide trend of Democrats preferring to vote early and Republicans preferring to vote on election day — between two-thirds and three-quarters of the mail-in ballots are from Democrats.
If (based on that math) fewer than 2,000 Republican ballots remain to be counted, then in a county where Oz and McCormick ran roughly evenly (McCormick has a few hundred more votes; Kathy Barnette appears poised to win the county), the remaining Lancaster ballots alone are unlikely to give McCormick the net gain of more than 1,000 votes he currently needs to overtake Oz. But any gains in Lancaster, combined with any gains from ballots still being counted elsewhere, could shrink the current 0.1% margin even further.