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Mail-in ballots flip outcome of race in Antis Township

Winterstein overtakes Hornberger for term on board

Mail-in votes counted after Election Day have reversed the apparent election-night results for a six-year seat on the Antis Township Board of Supervisors, creating a touch of controversy that has no legitimate basis, according to a Blair County official.

Republican candidate Ben Hornberger was the apparent winner on election night with 700 votes — 15 more than incumbent Steve Winterstein, who lost to Hornberger in the primary, but who gained a spot on the November ballot as a Democrat with write-in votes.

Winterstein overtook Hornberger upon the counting of mail-in votes at the county election office after Nov. 2, bringing his vote total to 790 — 41 more than Hornberger.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Winterstein.

“It sucks, obviously,” said Hornberger.

“It is what it is,” Hornberger added — while questioning the process, suggesting that the mail-in votes that reversed the results weren’t valid.

“The mail-in ballots received after Election Day shouldn’t be counted,” Hornberger said, during a discussion that referred to last fall’s ruling by the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court that mail ballots received up to three days after the presidential election were good — a ruling many Republicans reject as illegitimate.

Actually, no ballots received after 8 p.m. on the most recent Election Day were counted, said Blair Elections Director Sarah Seymour.

That is in keeping with election law, Seymour said.

The state Supreme Court ruling last year, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, applied to that year’s general election only, Seymour said.

Further, even those post-Election Day mail ballots in November 2020 were segregated and never counted toward candidate vote totals, Seymour added.

For this year’s general election — as for any election — mail ballots are counted after Election Day if they arrive at the county office after the county has printed its poll books, the books voters sign when they come in person to vote, Seymour said.

Mail ballots that arrive before the poll books are printed are counted on Election Day, she said.

The names of those voters who submitted those early-arriving mail ballots are noted in the poll books, so those voters cannot cast in-person ballots, Seymour said.

Mail ballots that arrive after the poll books are printed are kept separate for later counting, because the names on those mail ballots need to be cross-checked against the poll books, to ensure that voters who submitted those mail ballots haven’t also voted in person, Seymour said.

That is done after Election Day, when there’s plenty of time, she said.

It was that post-Election Day counting process that led to the Winterstein-Hornberger reversal, she said.

The poll books are printed about a week before Election Day, she said.

The county this year printed them Oct. 25.

Seymour is not sure whether such a mail-ballot reversal has occurred before in Blair County.

Winterstein admitted to having been complacent in the primary, figuring that name recognition connected with being an incumbent and a former member of the Bellwood-Antis School Board would be an adequate substitute for campaigning.

The swell of mail ballots in his favor that turned the election may be indicative of Democrats favoring mail ballots more than Republicans, he said.

He has been a Republican for decades, however, he said.

“It worked out for me,” Winterstein said.

While dissatisfied with what happened, Hornberger isn’t going to hire a lawyer.

“I could have done a better job campaigning,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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