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2021 Top Stories: Mistakes and write-in campaigns dominate Berks election season

In most ways, this past election season was nothing like 2020.

The glare of the national spotlight on Pennsylvania had disappeared. And election officials were expecting a low voter turnout normal for municipal elections when there are no national and state issues on the ballot.

But that didn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.

The election season in Berks County was unique in that it featured a few serious mistakes by local officials and some unusual twists to races caused by candidates who launched write-in campaigns.

Let’s start with the mistakes.

First, it was discovered on Oct. 20 that the county had mailed 17,000 ballots with Spanish-language instructions that incorrectly stated that the deadline to return mailed ballots to the county was Nov. 18, 16 days after the actual date of Nov. 2.

According to county election officials, only three voters who received mailed ballots that included the wrong date submitted their ballots late.

Then, on Oct. 28, the county sent a letter to 800 poll workers informing them that they were appointed to serve in various positions at precincts throughout the county on Election Day. The letter twice referred to the date of the election as Nov. 3, 2020.

And finally, a few days after the election, a candidate who was running for a seat on the Daniel Boone School Board was informed that the ballots for the race were incorrect. It turned out the ballot in the primary and general elections had mistakenly stated there were two open seats in the race she had entered. But there was, in fact, only one.

The commissioners, who serve as members of the election board when they are not appearing on the ballot, took full responsibility for those mistakes and said they were taking steps to ensure they never happen again.

But they pointed out that the workers in the election office were dealing with an incredible amount of pressure.

The unusual twist to some races came in the form of candidates whose names didn’t appear on ballots.

The county received an unprecedented 33,285 write-in votes. With large portions of that number concentrated in a handful of races, they ended up making a difference.

Write-in candidates beat candidates who were on the ballot in two school board and two township supervisor races. The races in which write-in candidates won were for a position on the Tulpehocken School Board, Kutztown School Board and two spots on the Centre Township supervisors board.

Large amounts of write-in votes had left the results of a few other races up in the air in the weeks that followed the election, as well.

The number of write-in votes posed a threat to candidates on the ballot in five school board races: Wilson, Brandywine Heights, Oley Valley and Schuylkill Valley at large.

Source: Berkshire mont

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