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More Election Day Issues, This Time in Luzerne County, PA

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

"Seriously deficient." That's how the Philadelphia Inquirer reported a supply shortage that stopped voting in several precincts in one Pennsylvania county on Tuesday afternoon. Continuing a trend of electoral muck-ups on Tuesday, Luzerne County saw "dozens" of polling places run out of paper used to tabulate ballots that reportedly led to voters being "turned away." NBC News' Dasha Burns called the situation a "Big Election Day mess," and indeed it is. 


Fox News' Jacqui Heinrich provided more clarity on the issues polling locations in the county that encompasses Wilkes-Barre encountered: 

A court subsequently issued an order to allow the polls in Luzerne County to remain open until 10:00 p.m., but that doesn't change the fact that voters were reportedly denied the opportunity to vote when they first tried to cast ballots at a polling place that had run out of the paper needed to count their votes and caused long lines for those who stuck around hoping to be able to vote. 

PennLive reported more on the situation and how election officials were sent scrambling to find more paper:


WBRE reported that Luzerne County election officials plus Democratic and Republican party leaders were in court on Tuesday afternoon, seeking the extension. Polls normally close at 8 p.m., but the extension is until 10 p.m.

Voters were calling local news outlets, including WNEP and WBRE, sharing that some machines ran out of paper, and other areas were having problems with voting machines.

Some voters were told to wait while poll workers went to other areas to get paper. Many of those issues were reported before noon.

In a court order, Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb wrote: “Voters, through no fault of their own, were disenfranchised and denied the fundamental right to vote.”

To be clear, Pennsylvania had years to prepare for this election, they knew there was likely to be strong turnout, and yet they still didn't manage to have enough paper on hand to keep their voting machines up and running. Compared to a state like Florida, which learned from the 2000 election and corrected issues to ensure they didn't happen again, Pennsylvania seems content to continue making seemingly simple mistakes that create much larger issues. 

Needless to say, the failure to adequately plan to have enough supplies on hand to run an election is just another Election Day complication that could — and should — have been avoided by Pennsylvania elections officials. 


Instead, election officials in Pennsylvania were caught somehow unprepared for voters to show up to cast ballots on Election Day, necessitating a rather rare court order keeping polls in Luzerne County open two hours later than normal. 

Not for nothing, as Mia reported earlier on Tuesday, Luzerne County was one of many that Biden's Department of Justice was "observing" on Election Day with the stated intent of ensuring people were allowed to vote and did not face discrimination of any kind while attempting to cast a ballot. Ironically, it was Pennsylvania's own election officials whose lack of proper planning led to people being faced with obstacles to voting in the midterms. 

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