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Election Officials Across Nation Battle Challenges of June 2 Primary

June 5, 2020

While the results will likely take days to tabulate in some jurisdictions, it’s clear election officials stepped up to the demands of conducting elections during extreme disruptions in the June 2 primaries. They are now focused on lessons learned and improvements to processes and resources that can be made before the November 2020 elections.

“I am eternally grateful to ES&S staff for their support. We would not have been able to pull off being the first county in Pennsylvania to report complete election results without all their hard work.” – Amy Cozze, Northampton County Registrar of Elections

Election Officials Across Nation Battle Challenges of June 2 Primary

Managing increased absentee ballots, polling place safety among top priorities for election officials

OMAHA, Nebr. – June 5, 2020 – While the results will likely take days to tabulate in some jurisdictions, it’s clear election officials stepped up to the demands of conducting elections during extreme disruptions in the June 2 primaries. While addressing challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic and city-imposed curfews, officials in eight states and the District of Columbia navigated a massive surge in absentee ballots as well as increased safety measures required for in-person voting. Several jurisdictions also used new voting systems for the first time.

“Election officials faced compressed timelines,” said Tom Burt, President and CEO of Election Systems & Software (ES&S). “They rose to the tremendous challenges presented by this election, and they should be commended.”

Primary elections were held June 2 in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Rhode Island, Maryland, Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and the District of Columbia. Many states offered increased access to absentee ballots, resulting in more than 3.5 million ballots cast through the mail. In Iowa, that was nearly 11 times the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2016 primary.

In Pennsylvania, 1.8 million voters requested mail-in ballots, with 1.3 million returned by election day. About one-third of counties also used new voting machines for the first time. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she expects vote-counting to take a while because of the surge in mail-in ballots and the extension of some deadlines.

“These factors are why I’m so happy to be able to report that today’s election went remarkably smoothly and we have no issues to report,” Secretary Boockvar said during a news conference late Tuesday. “I want to thank Pennsylvania’s poll workers and county election officials, who faced some truly extraordinary challenges with this primary.”

Northampton County, Pennsylvania, was one of a handful of counties that successfully sorted and counted all absentee ballots on election night. Using two envelope-opening machines and two shifts of about 15 workers using ES&S high-speed scanning machines, they processed 35,990 mail-in and absentee ballots. In-person voters also reported good experiences using the county’s ExpressVote® XL universal voting machines.

“An Election Day that could have gone terribly wrong given all the extreme circumstances we were working under, concluded with only minor issues and happy voters,” said Amy Cozze, Northampton County Registrar of Elections. “I am eternally grateful to ES&S staff for their support. We would not have been able to pull off being the first county in Pennsylvania to report complete election results without all their hard work.”

In South Dakota, where ES&S equipment is used exclusively, election officials processed nearly five times the number of absentee ballots received in the 2016 primary, while also ensuring that in-person voting remained open and as safe as possible. In states that provided in-person voting opportunities, poll workers used plastic barriers, face masks, social distancing, disposable styluses and pens, sanitizer, and proper cleaning procedures for voting machines to provide a clean and safe environment.

“Having both methods available provided our state’s voters the choice to exercise their right to vote in the manner most comfortable to them,” Rachel Soulek of the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office told KELO.

Election officials across the nation are now focused on lessons learned and improvements to processes and resources that can be made before the November 2020 elections.

“While there were many challenges to this election, election officials now have a roadmap to conquering these challenges,” Burt said. “Thanks to them and voters across these states, the strength of our democracy has been demonstrated once again.”