write in counting

This is a view of the computer screen Melissa Shaffer, clerical specialist at Lancaster County Office of Voter Registration, uses to count write-in votes for Warwick school board Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.

Lancaster County’s elections office today will begin a state-ordered recount of votes cast in the race for a seat on the Commonwealth Court.

The recount was automatically triggered after final results showed Democrat Lori Dumas leading Republican Drew Crompton by a 0.33% margin in the race for one of two seats that were on the ballot. 

County staff prepared for the recount on Monday, calling in approximately 45 volunteers to help separate ballots in preparation for rescanning them, according to Christa Miller, the county’s chief elections clerk and registrar.

Crompton got 22,000 more votes in Lancaster County than Dumas. Elections offices in the state’s other 66 counties will also begin today.

The recount is expected to divert staffing resources away from tallying the record number of write-in votes cast in the Nov. 2 election, with the outcome in a few races hinging on whether or not misspelled or incomplete spellings of write-in candidates’ names should be counted. Miller said that starting Wednesday, eight elections office workers will start rescanning ballots for the recount while one other worker continues on the write-in votes.

Elections staff expected to complete processing 80% of the total 52,308 write-in votes by Tuesday evening, Miller said. As of Tuesday afternoon, the county had counted 40,300 write-in votes.

Write-in candidates will know by the end of the week whether misspellings of their names will be counted toward their vote totals. 

Court of Common Pleas President Judge Dennis Reinaker is expected to rule Wednesday whether misspellings should count toward the vote totals for two candidates seeking a seat on the Warwick and Manheim Central school boards. Reinaker heard arguments from an attorney for Warwick write-in candidate Emily Zimmerman and Manheim Central write-in Jennifer Walker on Tuesday morning.

Their attorney, Eric Winter, said in a call Tuesday that Reinaker was still deciding whether to count “Emily Zimmer” as a vote for Zimmerman. 

“One of the things that frustrates me about Lancaster County is, and I’m a Berks County resident, is that apparently when you do a write-in vote [in Lancaster], you have a limited amount of space,” Winter said. “Berks County gives you a screen-keypad to type in a name, as long as it is.”

If Reinaker does not count this spelling in Zimmerman’s favor, Winter said he would request Reinaker to reconsider, noting the size of Lancaster County’s write-in box on the ballot. Any markings outside the write-in box on the ballot are not visible to county staff, even if those markings complete the correct spelling of a candidate’s name, Miller previously told LNP|LancasterOnline.

As of deadline Tuesday, Reinaker had not issued his order. 

The court will hold a hearing Thursday for write-in candidate Cheryl Bowman in Quarryville Borough, which could potentially change the outcome of the borough council race.

Current results show a tie for the final two of four positions on the council. James Kreider and Rick Aument are tied with 246 votes. If write-in candidate Bowman is successful in petitioning the court to count misspellings of her name, she could wind up with about 260 votes. 

If this occurs, Kreider and Aument would need to break their tie by casting lots at the county Board of Elections office on Friday.

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