On the 7th floor of the county building, Christa Miller was pulling numbers.
Not for Bingo. Instead, at noon Friday, the county’s election chief clerk was “drawing lots” from a small, brown jug to determine winners in local races that ended in ties – including a borough council seat and a number of constables and inspectors of election positions.
Miller dropped the Bingo-ball lookalikes into small plastic containers as a group of about 30 Lancaster County voters gathered to watch in the county commissioners’ hearing room.
The same process was occurring across the state, as Pennsylvania’s election code requires that tied candidates “cast lots” to decide who wins the position.
As Miller called numbers for each position, attendees cheered when someone announced they had lost or won. For many attendees, the rules of the process were unclear; there were frequent interruptions by candidates asking whether their number had been called, or inquiring about when, exactly, their race would be decided.
Having fun casting lots in Lancaster County this morning! Usually no one shows up, but with 52,308 write-in votes — there were a lot of ties! (For positions without anyone on the ballot) pic.twitter.com/uAR7mvBbdj— Gillian McGoldrick (@gill_mcgoldrick) November 19, 2021
John Oliver attended to see whether his wife, Christine Oliver, would win an inspector of elections race in Warwick Township. She didn’t, but he said the process was “cool.”
“It’s kind of ancient, going back to casting lots,” he said. “It’s just fun.”
Miller, the chief clerk for the county board of elections, pulled balls from the jug to settle the winner of a Quarryville Borough council seat. Candidates Rick Aument and James Kreider tied for the fourth position, but neither was in attendance. That left Miller to draw for them. The result: Aument won.
Christa Miller, the county’s election chief clerk and registrar, is pulling #s for each tie in each race. For example, this race she’s picking for has four ties. Whoever has the lowest # is the elected winner for that position pic.twitter.com/gnNnLSgova— Gillian McGoldrick (@gill_mcgoldrick) November 19, 2021
The consolation prize for Kreider was a position as a tax collector for the area. He and another person tied as write-in candidates for the position, but the other candidate dropped out, Miller said.
Linda Tripp won a position as inspector of elections for Mount Joy Township in the Fairview precinct. If she hadn’t been off from work Friday and therefore able to attend the tie-breaking event, she probably would have just declined the position, she said.
Hearing the cheers from the small crowd when someone won was fun, Tripp said: “It was very interesting. I’d never witnessed this before.”
Bryan Burkholder won his tie-breaker to become the inspector of elections for a ward in Ephrata Township. At first, he missed the fact that he had won, as the fast-moving process was confusing, he said.
Burkholder, a chef, said he wrote himself in, as did a few other people -- leaving him in a tie with two other people.
“Now I have to find out what the inspector does,” Burkholder said.
Board of Elections staff on Friday finished processing the record-breaking 52,308 write-in votes cast in the Nov. 2 election.
“Everyone is feeling great,” Miller said. “It shows how well we were able to come together as a team.”
The county will finish recounting a statewide judicial race on Monday, in time for the Tuesday deadline, Miller said.
“We still have ballots left to scan, but we’re getting there,” Miller added.
That recount will determine whether Democrat Lori Dumas or Republican Drew Crompton will win a seat on the Commonwealth Court. The initial count showed a narrow win for Dumas.
Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas Judge Dennis Reinaker said in an email that he rejected a motion from an attorney for a write-in candidate in the Warwick school district. Reinaker’s original order from Tuesday declined to count 139 votes for write-in candidate Emily Zimmerman. Those votes were written as “Emily Zimmer ' in the box provided for voters to write-in a candidate’s name. This leaves her 91 votes short of a spot on the board.
Zimmerman and her attorney, Eric Winter, say those 139 votes were intended for her and that Reinaker would see that if he looked at the actual ballots.
Lancaster County is one of three counties that uses the Hart InterCivic Verity election system. This system scans each ballot, but it’s not capable of reading anything written by a voter that goes outside of the box on the ballot. This system results in valid write-in votes being uncounted, Winter claimed.
“This is a design flaw. What it comes down to is that the system that was purchased… has a limited amount of space,” Winter said. “If you go beyond that, it does not get recorded.”
Winter said in a call prior to the motion’s rejection that he would appeal to a higher court if Reinaker did not reconsider.