At the November 2012 election, four populous counties in Pennsylvania did not canvass any write-in votes, even though state law requires that all valid votes must be tallied. The four counties are Chester, Dauphin, Lackawanna, and Lancaster. Each of them has more than 200,000 residents, and Chester and Lancaster each have approximately 500,000 residents.
Pennsylvania Election Code section 3154(a) says, “The county board shall, at 9:00 A.M. on the third day following the primary or election, at its office or at some other convenient public place at the county seat, publicly commence the computation and canvassing of the returns, and continue the same from day to day until completed, in the manner hereinafter provided. Upon the completion of such computation and canvassing, the board shall tabulate the figures for the entire county and sign, announce and attest the same, as required by this section.”
Unlike the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania has no law or regulation saying write-ins should not be counted unless the vote-counting equipment suggests that a write-in candidate may have won a primary or an election. Write-ins have always been permitted in Pennsylvania, ever since the first government-printed ballots. In 1905, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said in Oughton v Black, 61 A. 346, that if a ballot didn’t contain write-in space, that ballot would violate the state Constitution. The Court said, “Unless there was such provision to enable the voter not satisfied to vote any ticket on the ballot, or for any names appearing on it, to make up an entire ticket of his own choice, the election as to him would not be equal, for he would not be able to express his own individual will in his own way.”
Less-populated counties that also didn’t tally any write-ins in November 2012 were Crawford, Elk, Perry, and Snyder Counties. The failure of Lancaster County to canvass the write-ins was especially injurious to the Constitution Party’s write-in total, because Lancaster County is the party’s center of organizational strength. The party’s vice-presidential nominee, Jim Clymer, lives in Lancaster County, so his own vote was not counted.