After 29 days, a decision is in for the 14th Senate District Democratic primary.
Tara Zrinski conceded to Nick Miller on Wednesday in a race that had a 42-vote difference. The concession came following the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by nine voters in the contest against the Lehigh and Northampton boards of elections, who were defendants.
The lawsuit challenged mail ballots that were submitted without their secrecy envelopes – commonly called “naked ballots” – and mail ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but did not arrive before that date.
Under the settlement, those 260 votes will not be counted.
“I am thrilled to be the official Democratic nominee,” Miller told the Morning Call. “I am committed to fighting for voters’ rights across the Commonwealth.”
“Making sure every vote gets counted has been my highest priority,” said Zrinski, a Northampton County commissioner. “This settlement represents movement towards that goal, while also allowing us to move forward toward the November elections. While I am deeply saddened that the votes in this race will not get counted, which means I will not be the democratic nominee for State Senator for District 14, improving the vote by mail process and ensuring greater access to the ballot box in future elections is what is most important to me.”
According to the Department of State election returns website, Miller received 8,835 or 42.4 percent of the votes cast, while Zrinski received 8,793 or 42.2 percent. Yamelisa Taveras was third with 3,229 votes.
The victory by Miller, an Allentown School Board member, sets up a November matchup with Republican nominee Dean Browning, a former Lehigh County commissioner.
According to a news release from Matthew Mobilio, attorney for the voters, as part of the lawsuit settlement, Lehigh County agreed to:
- Notify voters who cast “naked ballots” that are discovered before 8 p.m. Election Day, or provide their names to party representatives who are on site during pre-canvassing so they can make the notifications.
- Explore buying a ballot sorter with the ability to detect the presence of “naked ballots.”
- Look into changing the color of the secrecy envelope to a color more conspicuous than white so it stands out to the voter among materials provided with the mail-in ballot.
- Include a notice in mail-in and absentee ballot applications that stresses the importance of providing contact information, and also put messages on the county website that stress the importance of providing that information.
Northampton County agreed to:
- Create messaging — including on the county website — about the importance of providing contact information.
- During the Election Day pre-canvass, provide names of all voters whose naked ballots are discovered before 8 p.m. to party or candidate representatives who are on site so they can notify the voters.
- Look into changing the color of the secrecy envelope.