HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Officials in a northeastern Pennsylvania county where paper shortages caused Election Day ballot problems deadlocked Monday on whether to report official vote tallies to the state, effectively preventing their certification of the results.
Two Democratic members of the Luzerne County Board of Elections and Voter Registration voted to certify, both Republicans voted “no” and the fifth member, Democrat Daniel Schramm, abstained.
Schramm said in a phone interview several hours later that after the meeting he received assurances that few if any voters were unable to cast ballots and that all provisional ballots had been counted. He said he planned to vote in favor of certifying the results at a board meeting set for Wednesday.
“I wanted to research to see exactly how many people were just not allowed to vote. I couldn’t find any,” Schramm said.
He said elections officials contacted 125 judges of elections from the county’s 187 precincts “and they reported nobody being turned away.”
A judge extended voting in Luzerne by two hours, to 10 p.m., during the Nov. 8 election after the supplies ran short at some polling places.
Monday is the deadline for counties to certify general election results to the state. In a statement, the Department of State said it was contacting Luzerne officials “to inquire about the board’s decision and their intended next steps.”
During public comment before the vote on Monday, people attending the elections board meeting in Wilkes-Barre called the election “rife with disenfranchisement,” requested the election be redone and called on county election officials to resign.
Alyssa Fusaro, a Republican Luzerne election board member, said she could not vouch that the election had been conducted freely and fairly.
Fusaro said voters were turned away from the polls, machines jammed and ran out of paper and normal privacy safeguards for voters were not in place.
The board’s lawyer, Paula Radick, said failure to certify could bring litigation against the county from the state or from candidates.
Luzerne District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce, a Republican who at the election board’s request is investigating why paper ran out at polling places, said in a text Monday that “the investigation is progressing as expected.”
Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania is an area that has been trending Republicans in recent years. Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro narrowly won Luzerne, while Democratic U.S. Sen.-elect John Fetterman lost the county by some 10,000 votes.
In Pittsburgh, Allegheny County’s Board of Elections voted Monday to certify the election results at 1,311 polling places but did not vote to certify results from 12 polling places where recount petitions have been filed.
A statement from county government said its lawyer was seeking to have those challenges dismissed in the coming days because the people who sought the recounts failed to also post $50 bonds for each ballot box to be recounted.
The Department of State says only “legally valid and properly filed” recount petitions can prompt a county to withhold certification for the office targeted by the recount effort.
“We will review what Allegheny submits to the department and then decide next steps,” the Department of State said in an emailed statement.
After three counties refused to record mail-in votes from the May primary, holding up state certification of the overall results, a judge ordered that they be counted.
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