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Sec of State reports successful 2021 municipal primary election


Harrisburg, PA – An hour after polling places closed, Acting Secretary of State Veronica W. Degraffenreid reported that Tuesday’s municipal primary election in Pennsylvania was successful, with more than 550,000 mail-in ballots already recorded.

“With fair weather across the commonwealth, turnout at the polls was typical for municipal elections,” Secretary Degraffenreid said. “No-excuse mail-in voting remained popular in this third election since the option first became available to Pennsylvania voters.”

Counties received a total of 820,757 mail ballot applications for the primary – 752,798 applications for no-excuse mail-in ballots and 67,959 applications for absentee ballots.  As of Election Day morning, 69 percent of the total number of mail ballots had been recorded by counties.

Department of State staff answered more than 1,100 calls received today via the commonwealth’s voter help line (1-877-VOTESPA).  Most callers had questions about their voter registration status, polling place location or mail-in ballots.

Watch the video conference with Acting Secretary of State Veronica W. Degraffenreid about the 2021 municipal primary election.


Luzerne County experienced an issue with all ballot-marking devices displaying a screen header that said “Democratic” on the electronic ballot presented for Republican voters. The Department of State confirmed that those voters saw the correct slate of Republican candidates, that their choices were correctly recorded, and that, after their votes are cast, the verifiable paper ballots printed with the correct “Republican” header. The department recommended that the county give affected voters the option of casting an emergency paper ballot instead.

In Lancaster County, a print-vendor error caused the pages of about 15,000 mail ballots to be printed in the incorrect order.  As a result, those ballots could not be scanned. Because of the number of races on the ballot, the department has recommended that a team of bipartisan election officials and observers in the county transfer those voters’ choices onto new ballots that can be scanned, rather than hand-counting the originals.

Also in Lancaster County, about 2,700 voters received mail ballots with incorrect instructions informing them that they did not have to include postage on their return envelope. The U.S. Postal Service said it still delivered those mail ballots. And about 100 to 150 voters in the boroughs of Mount Joy and Marietta received mail ballots with someone else’s name on the return envelope.

In Fayette County, it appears that some ballots were printed without the barcode that would properly align ballots to be optically scanned. The county ordered additional ballots to be printed with the correct barcode for voters who appeared to vote later in the day. Ballots that were already cast with the missing barcode were secured separately from other ballots and will be counted by hand.

In York County and several other counties, some polling places ran out of ballots and the supplies had to be replenished. In the meantime, county election officials instructed poll workers to offer voters the choice of using a ballot-marking device to cast their ballot or to cast a regular ballot, using ballots on hand for provisional voting.

As unofficial election results become available from counties, they will be posted on the department’s elections return site at www.electionreturns.pa.gov. The site provides statewide totals and county-by-county breakdowns of each race by votes cast at polling places on Election Day, votes cast by mail ballot and votes cast by provisional ballot.

Because Pennsylvania’s election laws currently do not permit the pre-canvassing of ballots before election day, as many other states do, counties were not able to begin mail-ballot counting until 7 a.m. this morning. Secretary Degraffenreid said she expects that counties will have the overwhelming majority of all ballots counted within a few days, but she noted that their first priority is always to accurately and securely count every vote.

For voters casting a ballot in person today, poll workers across Pennsylvania provided safe and secure polling places. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department furnished counties with masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer, and other supplies. Voters were asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

“I want to thank county election officials and poll workers for conducting another, free, fair, secure and safe election during the continuing COVID pandemic,” Secretary Degraffenreid said. “They are the front-line workers in our democracy, and all Pennsylvanians owe them a debt of gratitude for their hard work and extraordinary efforts.”