After absentee-ballot snafu, Montco to review voting system

"I understand the frustration," County Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh said.

Montgomery County will undertake a review of its voting system after an absentee-ballot snafu that caused thousands of voters to wonder where their ballots were and a county judge -- within days of the election -- to extend the deadline for returning ballots.

An "after-action review" by county public safety employees will survey voter services workers, voters, the post office, and others involved in the absentee ballot process, said County Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh at a county election board meeting Tuesday.

More than 2,000 absentee ballots were returned during the deadline extension, Arkoosh said, and a total of 22,297 absentee ballots were counted in the county. Several hundred came in after the deadline and were not counted.

Complaints from voters poured in before the Nov. 4 absentee ballot deadline, and Montgomery County had a lower percentage of absentee ballots returned than other counties. A judge extended the deadline by four days.

"I understand the frustration," Arkoosh said Tuesday, although she called the deadline extension a success.

Although more ballots were returned this year than in 2012, when 20,484 absentee ballots were counted, the return rate was lower - 74 percent, compared with 80 percent in 2012 and 88 percent in 2008, according to county figures.

A county judge last week dismissed petitions to recanvass votes in some county precincts - part of the recount effort by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's campaign - that asked for a forensic examination of voting machines. On Tuesday, the election board certified the county's election results. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the county by a 90,260-vote margin, 251,053 votes to 160,803 for President-elect Donald Trump.

The Montgomery County review will look at the voting system, but an audit done before the election showed the machines were secure, officials said.

The review will begin this month and a report with recommendations for county and state actions will be issued in early 2017, Arkoosh said.

jmcdaniel@philly.com

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@McDanielJustine