write in counting

Melissa Shaffer, clerical specialist at the Lancaster County office of voter registration, counts write-in votes for Warwick school board in the county offices at 150 N. Queen St. in Lancaster city Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.

The write-in candidates running for seats on the Penn Manor and Cocalico school boards will come up short, according to Lancaster County’s elections office.

In Cocalico, two write-in candidates trail by about 100 votes, even if misspelled versions of their names on some ballots are counted. Write-in candidate Rachel Davis received approximately 1,741 votes, while Dan Burton received approximately 1,815 votes. Neither candidate will have enough votes to overtake endorsed Republican Treva Bollinger, who received 1,847 votes on Election Day.

The county began counting the Penn Manor votes on Wednesday, said Christa Miller, the county’s chief elections clerk.

One of the four Penn Manor write-in candidates watched county staff count the Penn Manor write-ins for about three hours, Miller said. The counting showed that no write-in candidate will wind up with the more than 5,700 votes needed to win at least one of the seats. 

In total, 7,992 write-in votes were cast for the four school board races, with each name written in on a ballot counting as one vote. The official candidate with the lowest votes on the ballot received 5,734 votes on Election Day.

About 13% of the write-in votes for Penn Manor were posted Wednesday evening on the county's election returns site, showing the slate of write-in candidates had less than 300 write-in votes each. The county will revisit the Penn Manor race on Friday and Monday, Miller said, but is taking it off the priority list as the state deadline nears for counting all 52,308 write-in votes cast in races across the county.

Elections staff will work on Thursday, though the rest of the county government will be closed for Veteran’s Day, Miller said. As of Wednesday afternoon, the county had processed 18,600 write-in votes, or 35% of the total number of write-in votes it received in last week’s election.

“We’re moving along, we’re exceeding what our daily goals are,” Miller said. “We’re obviously moving, but it’s still not going to be done this weekend. It’s going to take all of next week.”

This process takes extra time, because staff must record each write-in vote exactly as it’s spelled on a ballot. Plus, the county only has one computer programmed to be able to tally these results. The county must send its complete election returns to the Secretary of State by Nov. 22.

On Thursday, Miller said her staff will begin counting write-in votes in races where there was no official candidate on the ballot. These races often receive few write-in votes, which sometimes results in a tie. 

In the case of a tie, the candidates are required by state law on Nov. 19 to “cast lots,” like candidates do to decide their name’s positioning on the ballot. Candidates will pull a numbered ball -- similar to a Bingo ball -- and whoever has the number closest to the county’s chosen number is elected into that position. If a candidate does not show up on Nov. 19, the county will pull a ball for them.

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