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Unlike Lancaster County and other areas of the state plagued with voting issues, the Primary Election in Lebanon County ran like a well-oiled machine.

To say that Sean D. Drasher, director of elections for the Lebanon County Bureau of Elections, was beyond pleased with the events of last week would be an understatement.

“I’m delighted – things went very well and it (Primary Day) was one of the most fun days I ever had at work of any kind,” said Drasher, who oversaw his first Primary Election after being hired by the county as its new director last December. “A lot of work goes into it leading up to that day, which can cause a lot of heartburn. But on Election Day, on the public side, everything went about as well as we could have possibly have hoped. So, very, very, very happy.”

Drasher thanked the 411 poll workers and his staff of three employees (Suzanne Houser and Judy Plummer, both full-time, and Audrey Hauer, part-time) for making the primary a seamless process for the nearly 30,000 registered Lebanon countians who voted on Tuesday. (About one-third of the 90,000 registered county voters cast their ballot in this election cycle. Over the past couple of primary elections, voter turnout has ranged from 18 to about 38 percent, said Drasher.) 

Read More: Lebanon County 2022 primary election results

“A lot of things you brace yourself for that could have happened didn’t, and while some of that might have been by luck, it is also because of the dedicated staff we have and our poll workers,” said Drasher, who added that poll worker turnout was 100 percent at each polling location. 

One of the few minor problems encountered – which is not a new phenomenon – was with individuals who wanted to vote, but weren’t registered. Or, those people who wanted to vote for one party when they are registered with another. Being a registered voter and voting in a Primary Election for the party in which you are registered are both mandated by state law, Drasher noted.

“You’re always going to have voter concerns and those are going to come out on Election Day,” said Drasher. “But primary elections are closed elections, meaning you can only vote for your registered party. We had people show up who wanted to vote, but because they were not registered or they wanted to vote for a different party than the one they are registered, they were not allowed to cast a ballot.” 

The ultimate goal, Drasher added, is to give everyone who is legitimately registered to vote, the opportunity for their voice to be heard. 

“We hate it when we are unable to accommodate everybody that wants to vote, but the law is the law, and state statutes concerning elections are very specific and very strict,” said Drasher.

Drasher said cases occur where voters have been flagged, but added those individuals are given a provisional ballot so they can still vote on Election Day. Provisional ballots are, in the days after the election, locked in a vault and then opened, vetted and either accepted or rejected based on data supplied by bureau staff to the county’s Election Board.

This year, there were just over 50 provisional ballots cast during this election cycle, added Drasher. As of presstime, it still was not clear how many ballots were accepted or rejected.  

Mail-in balloting, which accounted for nearly 6,250 of the votes cast last week, was also a seamless process, according to Drasher.

“Mail-in voting went fairly smoothly,” he noted. “There was a learning curve and some of that learning was on the fly since it was the first time I did it, but we were done counting those votes by lunchtime on Election Day.”

Concerning the razor-thin statewide lead in the Republican nomination for the fall election for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Pat Toomey, the margin was just as slim in Lebanon County.   

As of Friday afternoon, a total of 6,113 votes had been cast for Mehmet Oz; 5,958 for David McCormick, and 5,244 for Kathy Barnette of the 21,554 total Republican votes in Lebanon County cast in this election. (Drasher said that there will be a few votes, mostly from members of the military stationed overseas, to still trickle in before this Wednesday’s absentee ballot deadline.)

“That’s a darn close vote and we will prepare for the recount, which appears will happen in that race in the coming days,” said Drasher. 

He noted that none of the 62 write-in votes that were written for Oz or McCormick will be added to the county’s count since state law prohibits write-in votes to be valid for people whose names appear on the ballot. In addition to write-in votes for Oz and McCormick, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and a few choice swear words were other popular entries. 

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James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...