It’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s not the US Post Office that’s going to cause all of the headaches with mail-in voting next week. (Well… not all of them, anyway.) It’s the Boards of Elections in the many states that are launching out into the uncharted waters of massive vote-by-mail processes without ever having tackled the task on this scale before. This is far from the first case, and I seriously doubt it will be the last, but Allegheny County in Pennsylvania managed to botch the process themselves a couple of weeks ago. National Review’s Jim Geraghty had the details in today’s edition of the Morning Jolt.
Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh and is the second-most populous county in the state, accidentally sent out 29,000 copies of the wrong ballot to voters earlier this month, giving people ballots for races in other districts. The county is sending out replacement ballots. But if someone sends back the incorrect ballot and doesn’t send back the correct one, should it count? Should it only count for the races in their district? If someone sends back both the incorrect one and the correct one, will any accidentally get double counted?
As noted above, Allegheny County includes Pittsburgh and it’s the second-largest county in the state. So 29,000 ballots don’t represent a huge chunk of the electorate there, but given how tight everyone expects the presidential contest to be in the Keystone State, that number could prove to be significant. And when you consider that most of Biden’s votes will be coming from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, this has to be a serious headache for both the Biden campaign and the state Democratic Party. So what exactly went wrong and how does it get fixed?
According to one local news report, election officials in the county are pinning the blame on the contractor they hired to print the ballots. The company is blaming a “ballot image mapping error,” whatever that means, but the upshot is that all of those people received ballots showing a congressional race in a district other than their own. On top of the 29,000 spoiled ballots that were mailed, they found another 19,000 that were packed up and ready to send out. Those were allegedly destroyed and replaced. This took place on October 14th and they’ve been scrambling to correct the situation since then.
As to what they could do about it, the county mailed replacement ballots out to everyone the following week. The obvious questions involve how the voters on that list acted or will act this week. Election officials say they’ve been checking any ballots they receive to see if they are the misprinted ones. If they find any, those ballots will be “set aside” to be reviewed by the Elections Returns Board after the election. So what happens to the congressional races that are affected by this? Did all the people who filled out the ballot lose their chance to vote for their congressperson?
Some of the people who sent in a bad ballot may simply ignore any additional letters from the Board of Elections, believing that they’ve already voted. Others may become confused and send in the second one as well. Officials claim that they will be checking the lists of all the bad ballots they receive against later submissions to make sure nobody votes twice. But that’s a lot of “checking” we’re talking about at this point, right? And it’s all going to have to be done manually. That could take quite a while, and in a very close race, it’s just one more factor that could hold things up.
This situation in Pennsylvania is turning into a fine mess indeed. And they’re going to have to deal with all of this at the same time that Philadelphia is being burned down by a mob of rioters. But don’t worry campers. This is fine. It’s all going to be fine. I’m sure we can all have full confidence in the eventual outcome, no matter what sort of numbers they announce or who they say carries the state.