The Lead

Mail-in ballots prove popular in weeks since their debut

By: - February 28, 2020 5:27 pm

Voters line up at a polling place on Election Day. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

For Pennsylvanians, convenience is king this election year. 

More than 20,000 voters across Pennsylvania have requested mail-in ballots in the two weeks since the application went live on Feb. 11, the Department of State announced in a press release Thursday. 

The new mail-in ballot option allows Pennsylvanians to vote from the comfort of their home for any reason or no reason at all.

The April 28 primary marks the first time that mail-in ballots will be accepted in the state for reasons other than absentee voting, which is restricted to active duty military personnel and college students and people with disabilities or illnesses that prevent them from going to their polling place. 

Can’t make it to the polls on Election Day? Here’s how to request a new mail-in ballot online

It’s one of the reforms to Pennsylvania’s election code found in Act 77, which state lawmakers passed with bipartisan support last fall. 

“Voters are already making great use of the opportunity,” State Department Secretary Kathy Boockvar said in a statement Thursday. “We expect that in the weeks to come many more voters will discover the convenience of applying online and voting by mail-in ballot.”

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said that “Pennsylvania voters have welcomed the voting reforms,” adding “Pennsylvania has joined many other states in giving voters options in how they cast their ballots, making voting easier and more accessible than ever before.”

Counties must begin processing mail-in and absentee ballot applications 50 days before the election, according to the new election code.

For the April primary, that will be March 9. As soon as the ballot is finalized, the counties will mail ballots to voters or provide them in-person at county election offices, the state department said.  

Due to the demand for mail-in ballots, state officials have weighed amending Act 77 later this year to prevent a backlog during the General election in November. 

House majority leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, told the Pennsylvania Press Club earlier this week that the Legislature was “positioning” bills in anticipation of the onslaught of mail-in ballots. 

“We want to be prepared,” Cutler told the Associated Press.

Voters who wish to apply for a mail-in ballot will need to do so by 5 p.m. on April 21 to vote in the primary. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.