READING, Pa. — The Berks County commissioners pledged Thursday that 17,000 letters are being sent to the voters who received mail-in ballots with the incorrect date for the election.
The original letters sent listed Nov. 18 as election day instead of Nov. 2.
Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach, a Republican, said it was a genuine mistake, where the month on the template for the letter was changed but not the numerical date.
The date of the primary election — when the template was last used — was May 18.
"We're looking to see if we need a change in process and procedure," Leinbach said. "We will correct the process moving forward. It is an honest mistake, but is still inexcusable."
"We are committed to sending letters to all 17,000 individuals that received that erroneous information and we have been publicizing the information through various means," Leinbach added. "At the end of the day, it is unacceptable, and we are taking steps to determine what happened, but to also make sure it doesn't happen again."
The commissioners addressed the issue after hearing public comments from three residents who implied the county was trying to suppress the Latino vote.
Wyomissing resident Jane Palmer told the commissioners their errors were unforgiveable.
"Berks County has a history of discrimination against those who speak Spanish," Palmer said, "and your continuing errors are unforgivable."
City resident Celine Schrier also cited discrimination.
"With recent history showing that voter discrimination is a serious issue, what will you do to ensure these voters are reached with the correct information before November," Schrier said. "I believe it is the responsibility of the government to ensure there is a massive phone, text, email and letters to all 17,000 people affected, plus bodega signs and billboards and public service announcements on local radio stations."
Commissioner Michael S. Rivera, a Republican, emphasized that the county did and does not discriminate against Spanish-speaking voters.
"To say this is discrimination against these who speak Spanish could not be further from the truth," said Rivera, the county's first Latino commissioner. "If you are not a part of the Spanish-speaking community, then you do not know what has been done to make sure that anyone can have their questions answered. Make no mistake about it. This is not about discriminating against a certain population."
The error comes on the heels of county officials acknowledging that this election's mail-in ballot requires more than one postage stamp to return to the county. While they recommended the use of an additional stamp or one of the county's two drop boxes, they said local postal officials have assured them that all ballots will be delivered to the elections office, even if they have insufficient postage.