Slowly but surely – but surely, very slowly – Lancaster County counts its mail-in ballots

Lancaster

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — He won’t truly be there all weekend.

“I may go out and walk my dog and have lunch,” Gregory Paulson, a lawyer for the Democratic party, said, laughing. “But I’ll be back.”

They’ll all be back: leaders and poll watchers from both major parties, county leaders and employees from the county election office — and beyond.

“It’s kind of cool to be a part of something that doesn’t usually happen,” said Beth Gable, who’s usually a county budget analyst but for now — like dozens of other people who are usually something else — is a vote counter. “Here we get to be a part of democracy and do our civic duty.”

Like others in the room, she tried to see opportunity in a task no one wanted: hand counting 14,000 mail-in ballots because of a printing error that left them unreadable by automated optical-scanning equipment.

The CEO of the company that printed the ballots — Michigan Election Resources — tried to look on the bright side too.

“This has not been a smooth election,” Matt Sandretto said. “We’re sorry this happened. We take full responsibility. It’s not something we take lightly. That being said, the worst election issues are ones that affect people’s ability to vote. In the context of the voting process, everyone was able to vote.”

County commissioners, who are also the board of elections, and Christa Miller, the election office’s chief clerk, have made no secret of their displeasure with the company — “Things will be changing,” Miller said Tuesday — but said they remain focused on finishing the process before deciding what’s next.

Representatives of the county’s Republican and Democratic parties, observing the process, said the unexpected hand-counting operation seemed to be going smoothly.

“Everything we’ve seen so far is solid, transparent and accurate,” said Kirk Radanovic, chairman of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County. Paulson, representing the Democrats, agreed.

Late Friday, Miller estimated the office would finish counting about 1,500 ballots by the end of the day. She said the pace had picked up by late afternoon, after a careful ramp-up early Friday, and she expected to be able to count more ballots each day beginning Saturday.

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