Election 2022 'Counting every vote': Nearly 10K Cambria County voters submit mail-ins; efforts in motion to correct a few ballot dating issues

Nov. 7—EBENSBURG, Pa. — Nearly 10,000 Cambria County residents — both Republicans and Democrats — mailed in ballots as of Monday morning for the primary election.

And it appears just a tiny fraction, perhaps several dozen envelopes, will be set aside due to a state Supreme Court order on improperly filed ballots, said Cambria County Election Director Maryann Dillon.

Voter turnout, in general, typically surges in the general election compared to May primaries.

And this year's mail-in count appeared to reflect that again this fall.

The 9,661 mail-ins or "absentees" the office received was a more than 50% jump above the 6,300 ballots received by mail in the May 2022 primary, according to figures Dillon provided.

"But we're going to be here counting every vote until the last one is counted," Dillon said, referring to the combined total of in-person and mail-in votes the county is likely to receive.

By law, mail-in ballots cannot be opened and processed until Election Day.

But based on the number of applications filed to receive mail-in ballots by registered voters, the majority will be filed by Democrats.

Dillon said 7,283 Democrats requested mail-in ballots this fall. A total of 2,877 Republicans did the same, while the remaining 700 or so applicants were registered to independent parties.

As of early Monday, 89% had returned the ballots.

Cambria County has more than 85,000 registered voters, many of whom still prefer to participate in-person.

Court ruling

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that mail-in votes do not count if they are "contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes" — marking the latest of several times ballots have had to be set aside since mail-in voting was approved in 2019.

The court followed up Saturday in a follow-up order, setting a date range for acceptable mail-in ballots — Sept. 19-Nov. 8 for mail-in ballots and Aug. 30-Nov. 8 for absentees.

On Monday, Pennsylvania's acting secretary of state, Leigh Chapman, took steps to raise awareness about the order.

She urged any mail-in voters concerned that they might have made technical errors on their envelopes to contact their county's election offices.

If the county won't permit the issue to be corrected, go to their local polling place on Tuesday and request a provisional ballot, Chapman said.

In Cambria County, Dillon said her office already reached out to voters who submitted "undated" ballots. She did not have an immediate tally on how many voters went to the Election Office to "cure" their undated envelopes but said it narrowed the total down to approximately 45 by Monday morning.

Somerset County Election Director Tina Pritts was in a training seminar Monday and was not reachable for comment.

Other counties, including Allegheny, have been trying different outreach to ensure every voted is counted.

Chapman said those who have not yet submitted mail-ins still have time.

"County board of elections must receive mail ballots by 8 pm. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, so if voters still have their mail ballot and want to ensure their vote counts, we strongly recommend that they hand deliver their mail ballot immediately to their county elections office or other officially designated return location," Chapman said.

While counties across Pennsylvania will be busy trying to compile unofficial tallies late Tuesday to project winners, vote totals aren't verified until they are reviewed.

Cambria County's computation board is scheduled to meet to certify the total Friday.