A Butler County official said Wednesday that potentially thousands of mail ballots requested by voters appear to be lost. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been asked to investigate what happened to them.
Meanwhile, a USPS spokesperson said the agency is “unaware of any significant delays or issues.”
According to data provided by WHYY, over 40,000 registered voters in the county requested mail ballots. However, so far, only 24% of them have been returned to the county. This is by far the lowest rate among the state’s 67 counties. The county with the next-lowest return rate, Fayette, has received 50% of requested ballots.
Butler County Commissioner Leslie Osche said in an interview that County officials thought that the mail was slowed down due to high volume. But this week, county call centers and email addresses set up to handle elections issues were flooded with messages.
People must get their mail ballots
By Tuesday morning, officials abandoned any hope that the ballots would arrive and launched plans to get new ballots out to voters, Osche said. “Our main focus, because it’s too late now to worry about this, we need to make sure we get these people their mail ballots,” he added.
The exact amount of lost ballots remains under investigation, though Osche said she believes the number could be in the thousands. He said this considering the high volume of calls and emails related to missing ballots fielded by county officials during the past week.
New ballots have been mailed to voters living in the county and overnighted to anyone living out of state, like college students. In some circumstances, sheriff’s deputies are hand-delivering ballots, Osche said.
Osche and Butler County Commissioner Kevin Boozel, the only Democrat on the three-member board of commissioners, said that the Pennsylvania Department of State is aware of the problem and post office officials have been asked to look into what happened to the mail ballots once they left the county offices.
“I don’t want this investigated a month from now, I want it back now,” Boozel said. “This is an active investigation. I don’t know any more information than that. We have to trust the fact that it is being investigated by the United States Postal Service. ”