Midstate county election departments expect long counting process for some races

Candidate yard signs line the entrance to WITF's Public Media Center during the Nov. 2, 2021 election. The station building serves as a polling place for voters in Dauphin County. (Sam Dunklau / WITF)

Candidate yard signs line the entrance to WITF's Public Media Center during the Nov. 2, 2021 election. The station building serves as a polling place for voters in Dauphin County. (Sam Dunklau / WITF)

County election departments across the midstate say they’re well-equipped and staffed to handle voters and ballot counting for the municipal election that ends tonight.

All 67 have been working since Tuesday morning sorting and preparing to count mail-in ballots their offices received before Election Day. After polls close, they’ll begin publishing in-person and mail-in results for the multiple local and statewide elections voters participated in.

Spotlight PA has a comprehensive guide on polling places, ballot return location and more for those who haven’t cast their ballot yet.

Individual counties will post results for local elections on their websites, while the Department of State will post results for statewide elections here.

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Officials in Dauphin, Cumberland, and Lancaster counties said in interviews Monday that they’re estimating between 25 to 30 percent of registered voters will have turned out at the polls or returned a mail ballot by the time polls close. Though that’s far lower than in presidential years, elections workers will still have their work cut out for them.

In Cumberland alone, Communications Director Samantha Krepps said as many as 15 sworn county employees will be processing ballots and publishing results through tonight and in the coming days. That means full results may take a while to publish in some cases.

“The process is very exacting,” Krepps said. “It just depends on how smoothly it’s going.”

While all three counties said polling locations and election offices are well-staffed, they are expecting voters to cast an unusually-high number of votes for write-in candidates in certain races for school board and, notably, the race for Harrisburg mayor.

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Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino is asking voters to be patient.

“Depending on the turnout and depending on the race, after Wednesday, races may not be able to be called in those that have a significant number of write-ins,” he said.

Rules surrounding the counting of write-in votes are what drag out the process for election workers. Counties have to wait until this Friday to begin counting those votes, and once that process begins, each has to be verified by hand.

“They all go through adjudication, and you have to hand-type all those names in,” Lancaster County Chief Clerk of Elections Christa Miller said.

“It could be Miler with one ‘L,’ Miller with two ‘Ls.’ A single person could have 15 different versions of their name and we write down every single one.”

Miller said Lancaster County also is also limited by its tabulation software: she said the program only allows a single computer to process votes for write-in candidates.

“Only one person can be working on one computer doing that, so it does take us quite a bit to get through them,” Miller said.

Dauphin County Press Secretary Brett Hambright said election workers there will also have to wait until Friday to begin processing write-in votes. But he noted that won’t have any effect on the county’s ability to deliver accurate results.

“Our top priority is to make sure voters have confidence in the process. We will deliver the election in a free, fair, and open manner,” Hambright said.

Polls close at 8 pm tonight.

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