Thousands of ballots have apparently vanished without a trace in Pennsylvania
This election is shaping up to have record voter turnout. Thanks to mail-in ballots and expanded early voting, over 6 million young people have voted so far compared to just 2 million at the same time in 2016. But not everybody has received their ballots yet. With just four days until Election Day, over 10,000 Pennsylvanians don't know where their requested ballots are.
The confusion is mostly coming out of Butler County, which is located north of Pittsburgh. Per CNN, nobody knows what happened to an untold number of ballots that were supposed to be delivered to residents there. Postal officials say they aren't aware of any issues, and Chuck Bugar, the president of the American Postal Workers Union's Pittsburgh chapter, told CNN, "There's no record or indication that [the missing ballots] entered the mail stream."
Still, CNN reported that Butler County has received over 10,000 phone calls from people who requested ballots but have yet to receive them. And given that Pennsylvania is a key battleground state, the unexplained loss of ballots is a big issue. Local CBS affiliate KDKA reported that federal postal investigators have started looking into the matter.
Butler County itself is heavily Republican, having overwhelmingly voted for President Trump in 2016. With Election Day so close and nobody knowing where these ballots are, county election officials are urging people to find alternative methods to vote, including going to the Bureau of Elections directly or filling out a provisional ballot on Election Day.
On Wednesday, Leslie Osche, chair of the Butler County Board of Commissioners, told KDKA, "At first we thought that maybe it just was a delay in the postal system. And that could still be the case. But nonetheless, when we realized that, we changed our strategy and now have begun to tell folks that if they haven’t received a ballot, they still have multiple options.”
Butler County is one of two Pennsylvania counties that announced that they will not count mail-in ballots until after Election Day. The other county, Cumberland County, is also heavily Republican. CBS News reported that both say their staffs are too small to tally mail ballots while also keeping track of regular Election Day duties.
Legally, counties in Pennsylvania are allowed to wait until the Friday after Election Day to start counting ballots. However, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) told reporters Wednesday, "I'm going to strongly urge every single county to start pre-canvassing the ballots on Election Day. Because it's going to take a while. And the sooner they start, the sooner they'll finish."