The Lead

‘Don’t wait’: Wolf, Boockvar urge Pa. voters to deliver mail-in ballots as soon as they can

By: - October 27, 2020 1:11 pm

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar on October 27, 2020 | Source: Commonwealth Media Services

If you’re one of the 3 million-plus Pennsylvanians who have applied to cast a ballot by mail in the Nov. 3 General Election, state officials say the best way to ensure it’s counted is to hand-deliver it to your county election office – and to do it sooner, rather than later. 

“Don’t wait,” Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said Tuesday, when she and Gov. Tom Wolf addressed reporters at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Harrisburg. “Do it today, do it tomorrow. Do not wait.” 

Registered voters in Pennsylvania have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct 27 to request mail-in ballots online or at their county election office or at a satellite voting site.

Those ballots are due back to county election offices by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. 

Voters can deliver their ballots to the election office themselves, or take them to a satellite voting station or secure drop box if their county offers one.

Want to hand-deliver your ballot in Pa.? Here’s a map of election offices and drop boxes

Even though the deadline is technically a week away, officials say there’s no reason to wait to join the 1.8 million Pennsylvanians who have already returned mail-in ballots.

Boockvar said that voters who have no choice but to mail their ballots should put them in the mail by Tuesday, Oct. 27 to ensure they’re delivered by Election Day – a recommendation that’s backed by the U.S. Postal Service.

In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered counties to count ballots they received up until Friday, Nov. 6, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3. 

But that order isn’t guaranteed. Pennsylvania Republicans have taken it to the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in a petition on Friday – shortly before the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the court’s newest justice.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously split 4-4 on a separate case challenging the postmark rule. But some experts say that Barrett – whose Monday confirmation brings the court back to full compliment – could cast the tie-breaking vote to overturn it for good.

Boockvar said attorneys in the Department of State are preparing to litigate the case, but added that it wouldn’t change the advice she has for voters. 

“I don’t want any voters thinking about what a court is or isn’t going to do,” Boockvar said. “I want them to have confidence that their vote will be counted, and the best way to do it is just hand deliver it if you can. Get it in as soon as possible.”

Wolf and Boockvar reminded voters on Tuesday that it may take days for countries to report results from the Nov. 3 races. 

That’s because state law forbids counties from opening ballots before 7 a.m. on Election Day. And though county officials told them all year that they needed more time to process ballots ahead of election day, state lawmakers did not grant their request before adjourning its session earlier this month. 

“It may take longer than usual for counties to finish counting votes,” Wolf said. “But the number one priority of the Department of State is to make sure that each ballot is counted accurately and securely. And county election officials have worked incredibly hard over the past year to prepare.”

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.