mail in ballots

Clerical specialist Melissa Shaffer scans mail in ballots inside the county offices at 150 N. Queen St. in Lancaster city, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

Lancaster County elections workers on Wednesday began recounting more than 100,000 local ballots for a statewide judicial race where the winning candidate led by a razor-thin margin.

A statewide recount was automatically triggered in the Commonwealth Court race after final results showed Democrat Lori Dumas leading Republican Drew Crompton by a margin of one-third of 1% statewide.

In Lancaster County, Crompton led Dumas by more than 20,000 votes.

Meanwhile, work is winding down on reconciling more than 52,000 write-in votes cast in Lancaster County in various races, and the local elections staff now has fewer than 10,000 write-in votes left to count.

Christa Miller, chief clerk of the county’s board of elections, said eight staff members are working on the state judicial race recount while one finishes up the write-in reconciliation.

Because state law dictates that ballots cannot be re-scanned on the same scanner for a recount, Miller said three workers are scanning in-person ballots on the three high-speed scanners normally used for mail-in ballots, and five workers are scanning mail-in ballots on the scanners normally used at precincts for in-person voting.

A total of 110,137 ballots need to be scanned in the judicial race recount. Elections law requires the recount to be completed by next Tuesday, but Miller said she hopes to have the work finished by Saturday.

“Obviously, things can happen,” she said, and the prediction for Saturday completion assumes “that all of our scanners work properly and everything is going the way we want it.

Unofficial election results show Dumas, a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas judge, ahead of Commonwealth Court Judge Crompton by 16,804 votes statewide. Early returns on election night showed Crompton running well ahead of Dumas, but his lead turned to a deficit as large numbers of write-in votes in heavily populated counties were counted in the week after the election.

A ballot printing error slowed counting of some ballots cast in the May primary, but the county changed vendors for mail-in ballots and no similar problems affected the Nov. 2 vote.

Overall, Lancaster’s 2021 election went smoothly, according to Commissioner Josh Parsons.

“The logistics of every election are difficult now under Act 77,” he said. “We had a smooth election here, some counties did not.”

Act 77, passed in 2019, created a no-excuse mail-in ballot option for all voters and extended the registration period, among other changes. In the wake of the 2020 election, Republican officials throughout the state blamed it for swamping elections staff with large numbers of mail-in ballots to process but without the extra time, resources and planning needed to count them.

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