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Elections were smooth, county says

Stickers are pictured during the primary election at the Orchard Hill Church on Tuesday in Butler. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

Roughly 200 Butler County voters’ ballots were counted Tuesday thanks to an agreement between the county and the U.S. Postal Service, as the county boasts of a smooth election.

County solicitor Wil White said Wednesday the county did not experience any widespread issues with the primary election Tuesday, noting new cooperation with the Butler Post Office led to the county counting more valid votes than it otherwise would have.

White said the county was able to pick up mail four times — rather than its normal once — from the Butler Post Office on Tuesday.

“That was something that the postal service and the Department of State and our staff had identified as a problem, and we wanted to try and close that window,” White said. “Through some planning and some preparation, there was definitely an improvement.”

Roughly 200 ballots were picked up with the three additional mail runs, according to White. Those votes would not have been received on time and, therefore, not counted but for those runs, he added.

“Almost every one of those — I was looking when they came in — were postmarked the day before the election, on the 16th,” White said.

1 technical issue

Precincts in Butler County experienced only one technical error with the voting machines, White said.

Harmony Borough’s voting precinct contacted the county Bureau of Elections in the morning regarding concerns the vote scanner wasn’t properly scanning votes, according to the county solicitor. The bureau chose to send the precinct a new scanner, and were able to fix the finicky machine by blowing air across its lens. White said no further issues were reported at the precinct.

“That's, to my knowledge, the only technical issue we had yesterday, and, in the grand scheme of things, that's really minor,” White said. “I'm really pleased about that.”

White said the bureau also fielded “normal” calls from poll workers regarding minor technical issues, which he characterized as problems solved with technical support.

“Our machines worked as expected. I was pleased with that both out in the field and here, processing things,” he said. “Problems, when and if they did arise, had been anticipated.”

Mail-in votes were processed quickly, too. County commissioners chairwoman Leslie Osche said Wednesday the ballots had been counted — which involves opening the ballots, separating the outer envelope and the secrecy envelope, opening the secrecy envelope and then scanning the ballot, all the while ensuring the vote is valid — by mid-afternoon.

“For us to accomplish that as quickly and efficiently as we did yesterday speaks to the preparation not just of the elections bureau staff, but the professionalism of the volunteers, the people who were working yesterday,” White added.

Other votes to be counted

According to White, 35% of total registered voters cast ballots in the primary election.

The county computation board will convene Friday to determine which of the 129 provisional ballots cast will be counted, and to resolve some minor issues with some mail-in ballots.

The 129 provisional ballots cast Tuesday was low for the county, something White attributes to voters being better informed than usual. White said it’s likely most provisional ballots cast were because voters weren’t registered Democratic or Republican party voters, and as such are unable to vote in Pennsylvania primary elections.

“They will rule on whether any of those provisionals have to be counted, they will acknowledge receipt of the military ballots ... and they will deal with any 'problem' ballots, the most common one being 'naked' ballots, which come in without a secrecy envelope,” White said of the computation board.

Problem ballots, in addition to those without a secrecy envelope, include those with what White described as a “minor or technical defect.” Two ballots arrived in envelopes which were mangled, likely by postal service machines, White said.

White said about 10 military ballots are still to be counted, as those voters have an additional five days for their ballots to be submitted.

‘Final’ results, certification

The county will also need to tabulate write-in votes — in addition to the computation board’s work with provisional, mail-in and military votes — before finalizing the results of the primary election.

“Write-ins are usually minimal in a primary,” White said. “They're obviously much bigger in the November general election.”

While recounts are a contentious issue in some elections, White said it doesn’t appear any race will need to be recounted as a matter of law.

“I'm not aware of any race — local, county, statewide — that's even close to the margins that we would look at for a potential mandatory recount,” White said. “We're prepared if that's the case, but I don't see that being the case.”

White said the county will release its final election tallies next Wednesday, before certifying its results and submitting them to the Pennsylvania Department of State, which must be done within two weeks of the election.