Poll monitors in Hazleton during the Nov. 6 election observed “significant problems” involving Spanish-speaking voters and provisional ballots, said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “There were communication problems, misunderstandings with poll workers and voters getting turned away,” Mr. Kauffman said. Poll workers in Hazleton also refused to provide provisional ballots to people prevented from voting, Mr. Kauffman said. A provisional ballot is issued when there’s a problem verifying the status of a registered voter and can be counted later if voter registration is verified.
The number of provisional ballots statewide and countywide increased in the last election, compared to the last general election with the U.S. presidency on the ballot in 2008. The statewide total increased from 32,898 to 48,741.
About 200 provisional ballots were cast in the general election in Lackawanna County, a number Director of Elections Marion Medalis said would have been much higher if voters were required to show photo identification.
In Luzerne County, the number of provisional ballots increased from 99 to 120, according to the state. But the county board of elections reviewed 330 provisional ballots from November, said county Director of Elections Marisa Crispell, who added she is looking into the discrepancy.
About 20 voters went to President Barack Obama’s campaign office in Hazleton, claiming they had been prevented from voting, Luzerne County Councilwoman Elaine Maddon Curry said. County council plans to review problems from the last election at a meeting Feb. 12.
Polling locations in Hazleton’s eighth and 10th wards did not have areas “for voters to fill out provisional ballots in privacy,” and poll workers there would not provide provisional ballots without permission from the elections bureau, Mr. Kauffman said.
Ms. Crispell said the bureau instructed poll workers to get permission because office personnel in Wilkes-Barre had to first check to verify registration status. Voters were not supposed to get provisional ballots if they were registered at another precinct in the county or state, she said.