WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — From your local election headquarters, every vote counts. That’s the decision made by a Luzerne County Judge, Monday, after more than 300 people in Pennsylvania 116th district received their mail-in ballots late.

Judge Lesa Gelb says the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections must count the late mail-in votes.
However, they needed to be postmarked on or before 4:00 p.m. Monday.

A petition for a grace period for a handful of voters in Pennsylvania’s 116th district. On Monday, Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb described the latest mail ballot issue as a ‘glitch.’

Judge Gelb ordered the Bureau of Elections to accept any of the affected ballots that are postmarked on or before Monday, April 4, and received by the bureau by 4:00 p.m. on April 11. Denise Williams, the Chair of the Luzerne County Board of Elections is satisfied with her decision.

“Those voters were impacted and it would be important not to disenfranchise anything that’s not their fault at all,” said Denise Williams, Chair, Luzerne County Board of Elections & Registration.

It was just last Thursday that 305 voters were sent their mail-in or absentee ballot for Tuesday’s special elections for the 116th state house district. Leaving virtually no time to send them back.

But this oversight was close to not being caught. Williams says she was contacted in late March by a voter who hadn’t received their ballot yet. The bureau of elections then looked into the issue.

“It was realized then that there were two files that hadn’t been uploaded properly,” said Williams.

Williams says the blame lies on the state.

“You hate to throw the Department of State under the bus but this was not something that was caused by the Luzerne County bureau here,” Williams stated.

Luzerne County Council Members are now raising their concerns about more election issues surrounding mail-in ballots in the county and across the state.

“My concern is that really in a special election like this, the turnout is going to be so predictably low that any oversight is going to affect the election,” explained John Lombardo, Vice-Chair Luzerne County Council.

“Again it’s always the mail-in ballots that are having the problems,” said Brian Thorton, Luzerne County Council. “People are just fearful and they are afraid that there is fraud going on and we need to remove that we need to make the vote the most sacred thing like it always was.”

Senators Lisa Baker (R-20), John Yudichak (R-14), David G. Argall (R-29) and John Gordner (R-27) issued a joint statement on Monday looking for answers about the error:

“Effective election processes are essential to conducting a successful election, and to voter confidence in election results. Errors such as those reported within the Times Leader article undermine voters’ faith in our elections and could prevent voters’ legitimate exercise of their right to vote. With these important considerations at stake, we and the public must understand how this could have occurred. Specifically, we are requesting additional information from election officials on the source and nature of the error, whether the requests were submitted to the Department of State in a timely manner, how the mistake is being corrected so the affected individuals can still exercise their right to vote, and what actions are being taken to prevent this from happening in the future.”

If any of the affected voters didn’t receive their mail-in ballot yet or couldn’t send it by 4:00 p.m. on Monday, may vote at the polls on Tuesday whether they have their paperwork or not.