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Lehigh Valley Election News

Northampton County adds 2,155 emergency ballots to its vote tally

NorCo emergency ballots.jpg
Tom Shortell
Northampton County election officials flatten emergency paper ballots Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 so they can be tallied. County voters cast more than 2,160 emergency paper ballots after a flaw was discovered with the voting machines on Election Day.

  • Northampton County updated its election results Thursday afternoon after tallying 2,155 emergency ballots
  • The ballots were needed after poll workers discovered an error with the voting machines during Election Day
  • At least one race now has different results — one of two seats for Northampton Area School Board's District III

EASTON, Pa. — Northampton County updated its unofficial election results Thursday evening, adding 2,155 emergency ballots to Tuesday's tally.

Election staff spent hours in a windowless conference room flattening thousands of folded paper ballots so they could be run through a scanning machine. A handful of local party officials and county staff roamed in to observe.

The emergency ballots were necessitated due to widespread problems with election machines across the county. Poll workers discovered Tuesday morning that retention votes for two Superior Court judges were being flipped. Many polling places across the region switched to paper backups until the county sorted out the mess.

The number of emergency backups was not enough to change any of the higher profile races such as Northampton County judge and county controller. But at least one race — the campaign Northampton Area School Board's District III — is now showing different winners. Brian McCulloch, who won the Democratic and Republican primaries, now has a 41-vote lead over Democrat David Gogel. He started the day four votes behind Gogel.

Election numbers can still fluctuate at this stage. About 235 provisional ballots need to be reviewed, and a small handful of emergency ballots must be recreated. In those cases, the emergency paper ballots either have slight tears that prevent them from being read by the scanner or they're on paper that cannot run through the machine. Some polling places ran out of official emergency ballots and had to use other sizes of paper, said Registrar Christopher Commini.

"I have thousands of Republicans across the county who are very, very concerned that their votes did not count."
Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure

Even if the tally is completed next week, it's unlikely that will be the end of this election cycle. Glenn Geissinger, chair of the Northampton County Republican Committee, said he's been in contact with state party officials to discuss their legal options. At minimum, the party will file a right-to-know request about the voting machine problems.

When the same machines encountered an error in 2019, County Executive Lamont McClure assured the public these problems would be addressed, Geissinger said. But now, four years later, the county has again encountered major problems in another municipal election. The GOP has collected testimony from voters who were told they would need to come back later to cast their votes, which he said is a violation of the Civil Rights Act.

"I have thousands of Republicans across the county who are very, very concerned that their votes did not count," he said, speaking over the rumblings of the scanning machine.

The official canvass of the 2023 election results will begin Monday. The county is closed on Friday to observe Veterans Day.