Patty Yauger, Herald Standard
The Fayette County Election Bureau continues to verify each ballot cast in the general election and on Tuesday added about five dozen provisional ballots to the list for inclusion in the total number.
In unanimous action, the county Election Board Commissioners Angela M. Zimmerlink and Dave Lohr, along with attorney Mark Mehalov authorized
provisional ballots cast by 46 voters to be fully accepted and 10 others to be partially approved.
Provisional ballots are used at the polling places when questions arise about the voter’s eligibility to vote in that location or if their name is not included
on the registration list.
A full count is permitted if voting occurs in the voter’s same legislative district and receives election board approval.
For example, a Uniontown resident that was registered to vote was given a provisional ballot when he did not furnish election officials with his
Larry Blosser, election bureau director, said that first time voters, whether due to a change in residence or first-time registration, are required to produce a photo identification.
Because the voter was found to have properly registered, voting took place in the correct precinct and all the signatures matched, the election board approved the complete provisional ballot.
In another case, a Redstone Township voter was required to cast a provisional ballot when the name she gave election poll workers did not match the name on the election bureau list.
Blosser said that it appeared that since the prior election the voter’s name had changed, but she had failed to notify the election bureau to update her information.
The election board also authorized a ballot to be counted for those that had wrongly been listed by the state Department of Transportation as residing in Westmoreland County when it could be verified his residence was in Fayette County. The election board approved partial vote counts for those that were registered in one legislative district, but opted to vote in another district. Blosser said the 10 provisional ballots that offered votes in the presidential, senatorial, and congressional races would be included in the county vote
count, in addition to the ballot question regarding the retirement age for judiciary members.
Several of the voters were working the polls outside their legislative districts and cast a provisional ballot at that location. Blosser said poll workers were advised in advance that they were eligible to submit an absentee ballot in advance of the election.
The board rejected 22 provisional ballots after it was learned that the voters were not eligible to vote. Blosser said in one case a Brownsville Township voter cast a provisional ballot in Luzerne Township when it was found his name was not listed. He was
also found to have cast a conventional ballot in Brownsville Township. While questions arose about a second vote, Zimmerlink speculated that the voter was “concerned” that his provisional ballot may not be counted and returned to his voting district to cast a ballot.
“It may or may not be a criminal attempt (to cast a multiple vote),” said Zimmerlink, adding that every attempt is made by the election bureau to have voters cast ballots in their appropriate precincts. “Many voters become distraught or put out that they are not in the correct voting precinct in the first place.”
Lohr noted that although the board rejected the provisional ballot, the conventional ballot was counted. Other provisional ballots were rejected because the voter was not registered in Fayette County to do so. Blosser said that his office will contact those that had submitted a provisional ballot and provide information as to how to register to vote, change their name or address or verify their polling place.
Turning to a related matter, Zimmerlink said the commissioners are considering a request by Blosser to raise the stipends paid to election poll workers, including judges, clerks, inspectors and constables. However, the pay hike, if approved, would not be effective until 2018. “We are not permitted to give an increase during their term,” said Zimmerlink of the delay. A public hearing must be held in advance of the increase.
The board also discussed the anticipated purchase of new voting equipment for the 2019 or 2020 elections. Blosser said it is likely the state will move to an all paper ballot system that will likely cost the county about $2 million. “We are going to have to start setting money aside,” said Zimmerlink. In other business, Zimmerlink commended Blosser and the election bureau staff for their efforts on election day. “The (bureau) staff did a very good job this year,” she said. “I received some very good, positive feedback.” Blosser agreed, adding that in addition to the routine duties, also oversaw the in-house
printing of ballots and other documentation. “They did a fantastic job,” he said. “They stepped up to the plate.” Blosser, meanwhile, said that the bureau staff continues to count the ballots and anticipates the election board will sign off on the count on Friday. The public is given five days to appeal the inclusion of a vote before the count is certified.