Lancaster elections board chair on upcoming manual count: “Safe to say we’ve never done this many before”

Lancaster

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — As chairman of the county’s election board, County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino (R) has seen a lot. But the news he got Tuesday morning that 14,000 mail-in ballots had been printed with their pages out of order, making them impossible for automated optical scanners to read them?

“At first, I couldn’t believe it,” D’Agostino said. “We were all set to actually have everything wrapped up that night. Things were going smooth. And then I got the news.”

First, the good news: “Everybody’s voted will be counted, and be counted right,” D’Agostino said, speaking Wednesday. “All I can tell people is to be patient, and the veracity and integrity of the process will be maintained.”

Very patient, that is. By state statute, Lancaster election workers can’t even start hand-counting the ballots until Friday morning. As for when they’ll finish?

“We’re hoping no more than three days,” D’Agostino said. “Safe to say we’ve never done this many before.”

Typically, the “canvassing” process, as it’s known, deals with a far smaller number of questionable ballots that were, for example, unreadable by a machine because someone didn’t bubble properly.

Based on the number of ballots the county has already reported counting — about 80,000 — the 14,000 outstanding ballots represent about 15 percent of all ballots cast, leaving some races too close to call.

D’Agostino said election officials went through the usual process of “ballot proofing,” as it’s known, and the ballot designs looked fine when they saw them. But the actual ballots that go out to voters are printed on-demand and mailed directly from the contracted ballot-printing company, and it’s during that last step when the mistake seems to have been made.

County officials blame the same ballot-printing company, Michigan Election Resources, that has acknowledged responsibility for two other problems this election cycle: incorrect mail-in ballot instructions sent to voters (telling them they didn’t need to affix postage; they did) and some voters receiving return mailing labels for other voters at other addresses.

Does D’Agostino have any new thoughts about the company?

“‘Disappointed’ is probably about the minimum word I can use,” he said.

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