ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — Just two weeks away from Election Day, Allegheny County officials are not shying away from the issues surrounding this election already.
Among them are:
- Incorrect ballots
- Concerns about the mail-in ballot vendor Midwest Direct
- Phones ringing off the hook
- Naked ballots submitted
- More than 10,000 people finding out they are actually not registered to vote
Election officials said 29,000 new ballots to replace the incorrect ones sent to voters last week are now in the mail.
The elections office said so many people are confused. They are fielding as many as 8,000 calls a day, and some of them aren’t even being answered.
In the county, 11,000 voters have been told they are not actually registered to vote. County officials said most of them failed to enter “accurate” DMV or social security information, making their voter registration invalid -- even though those voters thought they were good to go.
That happened to Jacki High, who has been registered to vote for nearly 20 years. She was told she wasn’t registered when she signed up to volunteer as a poll worker. While her case was quickly resolved, she is concerned it could prevent others from casting their ballot.
“I just hope if that happened to someone else, they wouldn’t be deterred or say, ‘I don’t have time to register. I don’t have time. Did I miss my opportunity? I’m just not going to do it,’” High said.
Election officials are now double checking each application. In some cases, duplicated, no signature or incorrect personal information is to blame.
Councilmembers are also expressing concerns about “naked ballots,” which are mailed without the second secrecy envelope necessary for the mail-in process. Elected leaders want to make sure there is a process for notifying voters on Election Day if their vote doesn’t count.
County leaders are also raising serious concerns about Midwest Direct, the mailing company hired to send out ballots, after they said concerning reports surfaced last week related to the company.
“A lot of information has come out about this company: Family members indicted for mail fraud, Trump flag hanging,” said councilmember Bethany Hallam. “This seems very partisan. How did this potentially get overlooked?”
Midwest Direct said it did its part and doesn’t have a bias.
In a statement on Midwest Direct’s website, the company said it has completed and delivered all vote by mail ballots to the U.S. Postal Service as of Monday and it is up to date with ballot orders.
The company said it is proud of its team and addressed allegations of holding ballots affiliated with one party over another, saying the following:
“Any suggestion that our personal political beliefs prompted us to slow down ballot production and distribution is absolutely false. Quite simply, we wouldn’t be in business if we conducted business that way. We know how important this election is to everyone in our country and we have kept our pledge to do everything our company can to make sure the mail-in ballot process proceeds expediently and with integrity.”
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the error with Midwest Direct has since been fixed, and although they delivered great results for the primary in June, they will seriously consider whether they use that company again moving forward.
Cox Media Group