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NEW HOPE, Pa. (AP) — The Democrats of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, felt the red wave building over the summer when frustrated parents filled school board meetings to complain about masking requirements and an academic theory on systemic racism that wasn't even taught in local schools. They realized the wave was growing when such concerns, fueled by misleading reports on conservative media, began showing up in unrelated elections for judges, sheriff and even the county recorder of deeds. And so they were not surprised — but devastated all the same — when Democrats all across this key county northeast of Philadelphia were wiped out in Tuesday's municipal elections.
Republicans in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania ended up flipping two school boards and picking up seats on at least three other local school boards after election officials finished counting thousands of defective mail-in ballots over the weekend. © Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters Mail-in ballots are counted in Chester County, Pennsylvania, November 4, 2020.
But several GOP candidates who thought they’d won when initial vote counts were reported last week were overtaken when the additional mail-in ballots were added to their opponents’ columns.
National Review reported last week that multiple printing defects involving more than 20,000 mail-in ballots led to confusion about the outcome of dozens of races in Montgomery County, outside of Philadelphia, and put a damper on Republican optimism there.
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Initial results on election night showed 100 percent of precincts reporting, leading many candidates to believe they’d won, and local news outlets to report the same. Republican candidates initially appeared to sweep eight school board elections, local GOP officials said.
But in some cases those initial results turned out to be a “red mirage.”
What the results actually showed was 100 percent of in-person votes were counted. There were still more than 20,000 mail-in ballots outstanding, out of more than 220,000 total ballots cast. The mail-in ballots were, overwhelmingly, a boon to Democrats in Montgomery County.
The delay in counting mail-in ballots was due to two printing issues. In early October, elections officials realized that defective ballots printing on only one side were mailed to about 16,000 voters. Those voters were mailed replacement, two-sided ballots and instructions to destroy the defective ballots, but it appears some one-sided ballots were nevertheless turned in.
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The Republican rebound suggests the Democratic suburban slide reaches beyond Virginia and New Jersey.One year later, after enabling Joe Biden to flip one of the nation’s most critical swing states, their lurch in the opposite direction is a cause for alarm among Democrats.
Election officials ended up sequestering any ballots received by voters who’d been mailed a defective ballot to see if they turned in a one-sided or two-sided ballot, as well as to see if they also voted in person. If they turned in either a one or two-sided ballot their mail-in was counted, if they had voted in person, it wasn’t.
There was another defect that affected around 9,000 additional ballots, rendering them unreadable by the county’s ballot scanners. It took days for bipartisan teams to recreate those ballots so they could be counted. The mail-in ballot counting didn’t end until Saturday night.
Julia Vahey, executive director of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, said she was not made aware of the 9,000 unreadable ballots until 2 a.m. Wednesday, after election day.
“They knew early in the morning when they first started counting ballots that there was something wrong,” Vahey said. “If we had just been notified about that, I think election night and the days that followed would have gone a lot smoother.”
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A fairytale ending! After several years of being unlucky in love, Paris Hilton and Carter Reum got married in November 2021. “The first dance was a magical moment,” the Simple Life alum wrote via Instagram following her fall nuptials. “I felt like Cinderella. It was the perfect Disney Princess moment of the night.” Hilton began her relationship with the VEEV Spirits cofounder in November 2019 after calling off her engagement to Chris Zylka one year prior. “I’m so happy,” she told Us Weekly in February 2020. “This is the best time of my life right now.” The “Stars Are Blind” singer was smitten by Reum — but he also won over her “very strict” little sister, Nicky Hilton. The fashion designer also told Us that she can be tough when it comes to her sibling’s love life — but thought the Shortcut Your Startup author was “very sweet. He’s a nice, intelligent, smart, kind man.” Paris got engaged to Reum in February 2021 and celebrated by sharing a sweet dedication to her fiancé. “When you find your soulmate, you don’t just know it. You feel it,” the Confessions of an Heiress author wrote via Instagram. “I said yes, yes to forever. There’s no one I’d rather spend forever with.” Shorly before the proposal, the former reality star talked about wanting to start a family with her soon-to-be husband on an episode of the “Trend Reporter With Mara” podcast. “I believe having a family and having children is the meaning of life,” she told host Mara Schiavocampo in January 2021.
In the end, Republicans ended up flipping the Perkiomen Valley and Boyertown school boards, picked up seats on the Methacton and Hatboro-Horsham school boards, and maintained control of the Souderton and Lower Moreland school boards. They also flipped a Democrat-controlled borough council, and prevailed in several other local races.
Vahey said last week’s elections were good for Montgomery County Republicans, but the mail-in ballot problems and the confusion surrounding the reporting “taints it a little bit.”
“I’m pretty disappointed by what happened,” she said. “And it makes us concerned because we’re already combatting a narrative of last year where people do not trust the system. And this did us no favors in trying to sway anyone to feel more comfortable with mail-in voting.”
Jason Saylor, one of three Republicans who won seats on the Perkiomen Valley school board – flipping it to a 5-4 Republican majority – called last week’s vote-counting problems “an embarrassment.” It’s just more evidence that county and state election leaders need to tighten up mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, he said.
Republican Confidence in Mail-In Ballots Plummets From 2019 as Midterms Loom: Poll
Only 33 percent of Republicans surveyed in an Axios/Ipsos poll expressed confidence in mail-in ballots, down from 63 percent in 2019. Among Democrats, meanwhile, trust jumped to 49 percent, from just 13 percent in 2019. Your browser does not support this video The poll was conducted between November 3 and November 14 and surveyed 1,273 Americans. Debate over the credibility of mail-in ballots intensified after more Americans cast their ballots by mail during the 2020 election due in large part to the pandemic.
“If we can’t tighten it up, it’s just going to lead to more and more problems,” he said. “And then when you have problems, then people, they start to believe the conspiracy theories, they start to believe the ghosts. And that’s the biggest problem.”
Saylor said he still believes the awakening of the Republican base that propelled him and other conservative candidates to victory in school board races across the country will continue.
“More and more people realize it doesn’t start at the top at the White House,” Saylor said. “It starts at the very bottom with your supervisors, your constables, your auditors, your tax collectors, your school board directors. I think that’s a change that you’re starting to see.”
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