ballot counting Wednesday

County workers and volunteers count mail-in ballots for the second day inside the Lancaster County Convention Center Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.

More than 5,000 provisional ballots are waiting to be counted in Lancaster County, election officials said Thursday.

They said these ballots will be reviewed, and qualifying ones counted by the Wednesday deadline for counties to send final results to the Department of State.

Randall Wenger, chief clerk of the Lancaster County Elections Board, said that as of Thursday morning there were 5,555 provisional ballots waiting to be reviewed. He said that number could increase.

Provisional ballots are issued for many reasons, such as when a voter’s name is not listed in a precinct’s poll book, or when a voter who applied for a mail-in ballot decides to vote in-person but fails to surrender the mail-in ballot to poll workers.

It is not immediately clear how many of Lancaster County’s provisional ballots were submitted by mail-in voters who decided to vote in-person.

Meanwhile, Wenger said Thursday that the county has completed counting almost every mail-in ballot that was returned by 8 p.m. on Tuesday. As of Wednesday night, he said, 88,589 of the 90,867 mail-in ballots the county received by the deadline have been counted.

Wenger said the discrepancy between ballots received versus counted is due to some ballots being returned “naked,” or outside of the secrecy envelope. Other reasons include damage that made some ballots unreadable. State elections code, Wenger noted, outlines a process for how county staff can “fix” these ballots by copying a voter’s selections to a new ballot.

A total of 562 mail-in ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. Election Day but not delivered until after polls closed have been received as of Thursday.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that ballots received by 5 p.m. Friday should be counted. But the Lancaster County’s elections board members said Monday they are waiting until next week to decide whether to count these ballots. That will give the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to rule on a Republican Party lawsuit seeking to invalidate any vote received after the election night deadline.

“The problem is it can be done, but it’s a lot of work (to remove those votes). It is like a day of work,” said county Commissioner Ray D’Agostino, who serves as chairman of the elections board.

D’Agostino said election workers need to prioritize provisional ballots over the post-deadline mail-in votes.