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Berks County, Pa., Flags False Election Info From Lawmaker

Officials in Berks County, Pa., corrected false election information that was sent in two emails from a state representative. The lawmaker pointed out that the county had sent out an inaccurate letterhead.

Mail in ballot
Shutterstock/CL Shebley
(TNS) — Berks County officials on Saturday corrected "misleading and inaccurate information" contained in a pair of emails from state Rep. Manuel Guzman about how to return mail ballots.

The county issued a statement saying Guzman's first email, sent Friday at about 4:50 p.m., incorrectly stated that voters can hand deliver their ballot to their polling place on Election Day to ensure it is received in a timely manner and gets counted.

Mail ballots, they stressed in a press release, cannot be returned to a polling location to be counted.

They can only be returned the following three ways: through the mail, by placing the ballot in either of the county's two secure drop boxes or by hand delivering the ballot to the Office of Election Services.

"Due to the proximity of the upcoming election, the Board encourages voters to return mail-in ballots to a county drop box or the Office of Election Services to ensure timely receipt," it reads.

The drop boxes are located at the Berks County Services Center and the Berks County Agriculture Center and are open Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday's press release from the county also took issue with a second email from Guzman, sent just before 8 p.m. Friday, in which he attempted to correct the error in his first email. They said it contained incorrect information pertaining to surrendered mail ballots.

The lawmaker's email stated that voters will have to destroy that ballot and complete a provisional ballot.

But the county pointed out that this information is wrong. They said voters who requested mail ballots but instead wish to vote in person at their polling place on Election Day must surrender and void their unvoted mail ballot at their precinct and vote on a machine.

If a voter who requested a mail ballot goes to a precinct to vote in person but does not have their unvoted ballot to surrender, the voter will only be allowed to vote by provisional ballot to ensure they did not vote twice.

"In short, Representative Guzman's assertion that mail-in/absentee ballots can be counted if returned to a polling place and his explanation of the process for surrendered ballots are not only inaccurate but also unfortunate as the county continues to work tirelessly to ensure a fair and secure election for Berks County," the release stated.

In a phone interview on Saturday, Guzman acknowledged the first email wasn't complete, but he downplayed the inaccuracies.

"Technically, voters can take their mail-in ballot to their polling location," Guzman said. "That needed some additional clarification to be 100% accurate, but if the commissioners want to make an equivocation of an email versus an official government document on county letterhead that was sent to over 17,000 people, that's not an equivocation I would make."

That mistake by the county, in which the Spanish-language instructions on thousands of ballots included the wrong date for the election, has come under fire from local advocacy organizations. Guzman has been a vocal leader.

The Reading Democrat took part in a demonstration Thursday at the county services center calling on Berks officials to accept the ballots of those voters who received the erroneous information until the date listed on the instructions: Nov. 18.

The commissioners said they have no legal authority to accept ballots that are received after Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. The Pennsylvania Department of State confirmed that, saying such an extension would have to be ordered by the courts.

Later Saturday, it was learned that Berks had sent out a second official communication that gave the wrong date for Election Day.

©2021 Reading Eagle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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