Voting dates change due to COVID
Pennsylvania’s Primary Election would have been held next week if not for the pandemic.
The original date was Tuesday, April 28, but Gov. Tom Wolf changed that to Tuesday, June 2, in response to COVID-19 and various state-wide closures.
That date is holding and, so far, there have been no other major changes to voting procedures at the polls.
“As far as we know there is still in-person voting,” Warren County Director of Elections and Voter Registrar Lisa Rivett said. “We’ll take all the precautions that we need to.”
The date change has resulted in some deadline changes related to voting.
“The last day to register is May 18,” Rivett said. That includes new registrations and changes to address and party affiliation.
Those hoping to vote without going to the polls have a couple of options.
The Pennsylvania Department of State is encouraging people to vote from home. In the past, absentee balloting allowed those who would not be home on Election Day and those who are not able to get to the polls to vote by mail. Voting by absentee ballot remains unchanged.
This year is the first in the state for a new mail-in voting option without any explanation.
The Department of State, and the Republican and Democratic parties are encouraging voters to apply for mail-in ballots, Rivett said. The Republican Party is sending applications to Republican voters.
“The last day to apply for mail-in or civilian absentee ballots is May 26,” Rivett said.
Applications may be received by contacting Rivett at email@example.com or by visiting:
“I have processed over 1,000 mail-in and absentee applications,” Rivett said.
Registered voters who submit proper applications will receive ballots in the mail. Those who send in more than one application will only receive one ballot. “They’re not allowed to get two ballots,” Rivett said.
The first batches of those have already been delivered in Warren County. Rivett said they show an election date of April 28 and voters may ignore that. It is not a mistake, it was simply printed before the change was made. Those ballots will be accepted, she said.
The next step is simple. “You fill it out and mail it back to me,” Rivett said. “I’m encouraging people to mail it to me. After we reopen… there are going to be different procedures in place.”
The number of people allowed in the office at one time will be limited, among other restrictions.
A voter may not drop off another voter’s mail-in ballot at the courthouse.
The completed ballots, inside the provided secrecy envelopes, within the mailing envelopes require one stamp, Rivett said.
Those ballots must be returned to Rivett by 8 p.m. June 2 or they will not be counted.
That means they cannot be taken to the polls and handed to workers there. Poll workers will not return to Warren County Courthouse before the 8 p.m. Deadline.
Those who apply for mail-in and absentee voting will be so noted in the voting books at the polls. Those voters may go to their respective polling places and will be allowed to vote only by provisional ballot. If Rivett receives a mail-in or absentee ballot from that voter, their provisional ballot will be discarded. If not, the provisional ballot will count.
Voters who applied for mail-in ballots for this Primary Election will also receive a mail-in ballot for the General Election.
There are boxes on both the mail-in and absentee ballot applications where votes can indicate if they would like to receive ballots for both the Primary and General elections.
Those who apply will automatically receive applications by mail next year. There is no way to sign up to receive mail-in ballots for more than one year of elections. That step is a possibility.
“I think this is something that is really going to take off,” Rivett said.
There have been some changes to the candidates for President of the United States on Democratic ballots.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race shortly before the initial ballots were sent out.
Instructions contained in ballots sent to Democrats indicate that votes for Warren will be counted as write-in votes.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has also withdrawn. Rivett did not receive any instruction from the Department of State with respect to how to handle votes for Sanders.