A large number of Republican ballots in Pennsylvania could not be scanned during the primaries and local elections on Tuesday, May 18, leading to an outcry of concerns regarding election integrity in the state.
Most of the unscanned ballots came from Republican voters in Fayette County, a GOP stronghold in southwestern Pennsylvania. The ballots were missing bar codes needed to get recognized and scanned by the voting machines. (Related: Investigation shows hundreds of Republican mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania were not counted.)
“What we know at this point in time is that a bar code that’s required to allow the paper ballots to be scanned at the polling places was missing,” said Republican State Rep. Matthew Dowling during an interview with the Epoch Times.
The problems started appearing at around 7 p.m. on election night. George Rattay, chairman of the Fayette County Democratic Party, said nobody knew what the problem was until he and several other election workers reported the concern to the Fayette County Election Bureau. The bureau eventually discovered that it was a bar code issue and that all 77 precincts in the county were experiencing similar problems.
Lorie Lambie, a resident of the county, said her ballot was rejected at the precinct in Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport. “I feel suspicious after everything that happened with the presidential election,” she said. “I’m a Republican. I went to scan a ballot and it spit it out. I tried three or four times and it kept spitting it out.”
Jeff Valek, who voted at the Hatfield Elementary School less than 10 miles south of the airport, had a similar experience. “Just went through the normal process,” he said. “I took it over to the machine and it was rejected.”
Voters like Lambie and Valek instead placed their rejected ballots into emergency slots located at the back of the voting machines. These rejected ballots were hand-counted by Election Bureau officials.
“The scanning machine was not scanning,” said Chris Varney, Fayette County Judge of Elections. “At first, we thought it was all ballots, but then realized it was only Republican ballots.” He said the poll workers at the precinct he was in began noticing the scanning problems shortly after the polling stations opened in the morning.
“Just to make it fair, because if someone has a ballot and they miss mark it, you know the Republicans wouldn’t have a chance to correct it, but the Democrats do,” explained Varney on the day of the election. “So, now we’re not scanning any of them. We’re just putting them in the back.”
Several investigations have already been opened in response to the mass rejection of ballots in the Republican-leaning county. County commissioners have already launched an internal investigation to discover how the incident happened.
“We are going to have to make some serious changes in the way we conduct our elections in Fayette County moving forward,” said County Commissioner Scott Dunn, a Republican.
Dunn said it is still unclear why the ballots were rejected in the first place. What commissioners currently know is that many of the ballots delivered to Fayette County were missing barcodes.
“At this point, we know the issue is printing the ballots,” Dunn said. “As to who is responsible, we don’t know that and it’s being investigated as we speak.”
State lawmakers have also begun an investigation. Dowling, along with fellow Republicans state Rep. Ryan Warner and state Sen. Pat Stefano, have issued a right-to-know (RTK) request, demanding records from the county regarding ballot and voting machine testing. They have also demanded to see the county’s financial records and contracts relating to the printing of ballots as well as all of the county’s logged reports of ballot malfunctions.
“We do want to provide transparency and let our constituents know how this blunder happened,” said Dowling. “I’m assuming there was nothing nefarious, although I think that does have to be investigated to see why this happened.”
“From what I understand, the wrong file was printed and I want to find out,” said Stefano.
District Attorney Richard Bower said the incident is unacceptable, and he is taking matters into his own hands with his own investigation. He has also filed a search warrant for the county elections office on Thursday night, May 20.
“We are going to be looking at that whole scenario that has been going on because the fact that we already had one election last year that had some voter fraud, so we want to see why this happened,” said Bower.
According to the search warrant Bower filed against the Elections Bureau, the search is due to multiple complaints that “Republican and Democratic ballots were being rejected by the voting machines.” He refused to elaborate on how widespread the ballot rejection is.
Bower said he and investigators spoke with election officials on election night, and after reviewing election law, they decided that a search warrant was their best course of action.
“It was my decision that I would rather have a search warrant than just going and asking for the information, because, quite frankly, they could say we have to file an RTK. We’re not going to file an RTK when we’re doing a criminal investigation,” said Bower.
As of May 20, the Fayette County Election Bureau said the unscanned ballots from the May 18 elections were still being counted, and the process is expected to be very lengthy.
We’re still working on it,” said Larry Blosser, director of the Election Bureau. “It’s going to be a long, drawn-out deal.”
Blosser refused to divulge how many ballots were affected in the incident. The rejected ballots were collected from the emergency slots and delivered to the bureau’s central office, where they were tallied by hand.
The director explained that recounting the rejected ballots involves manually entering the information on the ballot into a touch screen voting machine. These machines are typically used by voters with disabilities who cannot use paper ballots. The machine then prints a ballot with a new bar code.
The original and new ballots are compared to make sure all votes match, and then the new ballot is scanned into a voting machine and the votes are recorded.
Learn more about recent ballot fraud incidents and revisit previous investigations regarding voter fraud by reading the articles at VoteFraud.news.