Election Day ballot problems in Pennsylvania county examined

Mar 28, 2023, 1:14 PM

Election Day shortages of the paper needed to run voting machinery caused significant problems in a northeastern Pennsylvania county in November, but the extent of the problem or what caused it are still unclear, witnesses told a congressional committee Tuesday.

The three-hour hearing of the U.S. House Administration Committee into events in Luzerne County on Nov. 8 brought outrage from members of both parties about the delay in reporting results from the country’s largest swing state.

The fact-finding, billed by the Republican majority as a look into “government voter suppression” in Luzerne, included anecdotal reports of problems voting in a county where a judge agreed to order polls to remain open for two extra hours, until 10 p.m., to accommodate those who may have been unable to cast ballots earlier in the day.

“This is catastrophic, in my view,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle of New York, the committee’s ranking Democrat. “This is a complete breakdown.”

Elections officials “rushed to stores” in an effort to get paper for “voter-created emergency ballots,” said committee Chairman Rep. Bryan Steil, a Wisconsin Republican, calling it “unbelievable in American elections today.”

“To date, no official action has been taken in Luzerne County,” Steil said. “No report from the district attorney. No report from the secretary of state. No report from the Luzerne County Board of Elections. There must be accountability.”

The hearing did not include the Luzerne County officials who oversee and run elections, as they apparently received legal advice not to participate while Luzerne District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce investigates what happened.

The Pennsylvania Department of State also declined to testify, telling Steil in a March 22 letter that the statewide elections agency did not want to interfere in or compromise the results of Sanguedolce’s investigation.

“Though the Department offers guidance and assistance to counties on election administration issues, the Department of State, with very few exceptions, unrelated to the issues here, has limited authority under Pennsylvania’s Election Code to dictate how counties run their elections,” wrote Jonathan Marks, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary for elections and commissions.

Sanguedolce, who watched the hearing, declined to comment afterward on his investigation or when he might disclose its findings. Sanguedolce said he “wouldn’t narrow it to a criminal investigation,” noting his office has jurisdiction to look into anything involving voter irregularity.

“If everyone in that hearing operates from the assumption that the facts set forward are true, then everyone should be concerned,” Sanguedolce said. “But I’m not sure you should assume the facts are true.”

The hearing included claims that paper shortages were widespread, questions about the procedures used to cast emergency or provisional ballots, and reports some voters were unable to cast ballots at all. There was also testimony about employee turnover problems within Luzerne’s elections office.

“We don’t have the answers that we need,” said Jim Bognet, a Republican who lost by less than three percentage points in a challenge to Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright in November. “That’s why we’re so happy you guys are looking into it.”

Luzerne, formerly a reliable Democratic majority county, has become much more Republican in recent years, although Democrat Josh Shapiro won the county by barely one percentage point in the November governor’s race. In recent presidential contests, Donald Trump easily beat Hilary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 in Luzerne.

United States News

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump hugs and kisses the American flag a...

Associated Press

Trump calls himself a ‘proud political dissident’ in CPAC speech

In a CPAC speech, Trump painted an apocalyptic vision of the future if President Joe Biden wins again as the two prepare for a rematch.

1 hour ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures to the audience after spea...

Associated Press

Donald Trump wins South Carolina GOP primary, beating Nikki Haley in her home state

Trump has now swept every contest that counted for Republican delegates, with wins already in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Why AP called South Carolina for Trump: Race call explained

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press declared Donald Trump the winner of the South Carolina primary as soon as polls closed on Saturday. The race call was based on a comprehensive survey of South Carolina Republican primary voters that showed him defeating Nikki Haley by wide margins in her home state. Declaring a winner as […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Former NFL player Richard Sherman arrested on suspicion of DUI, authorities in Washington state say

SEATTLE (AP) — Former NFL player Richard Sherman was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to the Washington State Patrol. No other details about the arrest were immediately available, said Trooper Rick Johnson, a patrol spokesperson. A spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor’s Office said nothing had been sent to […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Lithium ion battery caused fatal fire in New York City apartment building, officials say

NEW YORK (AP) — A lithium ion battery sparked a fire that killed one person and injured 17 others at a New York City apartment building, fire officials said Saturday. Friday’s two-alarm fire began just after 2 p.m. on the third floor of a six-story building in Harlem. New York Police Department video shows firefighters […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Federal prosecutors accuse a New Mexico woman of fraud in oil and gas royalty case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico businesswoman is accused of defrauding the U.S. government and two Native American tribes of taxes and royalties due to them for oil and gas that her companies extracted from leased federal and tribal lands. Federal prosecutors announced this week that Teresa McCown recently was indicted by a grand […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Election Day ballot problems in Pennsylvania county examined