It’s easy to see why discussion Thursday during the county commissioner’s meeting focused on mail-in ballots since about 40 percent of the county’s 89,000 registered voters are expected to use them for the general election.
In the sole action item concerning the Nov. 3 election, the commissioners tentatively approved the countywide ballot, pending the outcome of a lawsuit seeking to strike the Green Party’s nominees for president and vice president from appearing on election ballots in the state of Pennsylvania.
While the commissioners were meeting via a Zoom conference call for their bi-weekly meeting, the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court was voting 5-2 to remove the Green Party candidates for “violating disqualifying irregularities in how Green Party candidates for president and vice president filed affidavits that accompany paperwork to get on the ballot.”
Filing of the lawsuit had brought to a halt efforts by county officials to finalize mail-in ballots, get them tested, printed and mailed to the nearly 16,000 – and counting – eligible voters who have been certified by the county’s election office to vote by mail, according to Michael L. Anderson, Chief Clerk, Voter Registration.
In a follow-up call with LebTown since the lawsuit was resolved on the same day as the meeting, Anderson said the goal is to have mail-in ballots mailed to voters by Sept. 28 or no later than the first week of October, which is the same timeframe he gave the commissioners when it was uncertain when the lawsuit might end.
During the meeting, Anderson highlighted an issue concerning requests for mail-in ballot applications.
“There’s a lot of confusion because of third-party mailings, and people are receiving multiple (mail-in voter registration) applications,” Anderson said. “Some people think those are ballots and I assure you no ballots have been sent, no one is getting duplicate ballots.”
Anderson said his office is telling people they only need to register once to ensure they receive a mail-in ballot.
“What you are getting are duplicates of the application,” Anderson said. “So, what we’re letting people know is, if you have filled out an application already and you do get another one in the mail from these third parties, don’t do (send) it again. We have your first one. So, be patient, you don’t have your ballot because we can’t send them to you yet.”
In highlighting some important deadlines for the general election, Anderson said now is the time for people to decide whether they are going to vote by mail or at the polls.
“It’s Important that you once make that choice, that you stick with it,” Anderson added. “I am going to be scrutinizing requests for more than one ballot. Once you receive a ballot, that is the one we want you to vote on.”
Anderson added that some circumstances will arise that require a ballot to be reissued and said those requests will be decided by “a one-on-one basis as they occur.”
Anderson said people who get a mail-in ballot but then decide to vote in person at the polls will cause confusion in the voting process.
“What I don’t want to see happen is people say, ‘‘I don’t know what’s going to happen so maybe I’ll get it (a mail-in ballot) but then decide (later) to go vote in person’,” Anderson said. “That’s what we want to avoid because you are going to cause more chaos at the polls if you decide to do that.”
Key dates for mail-in balloting and for the general election are:
September 28 – The tentative date for mail-in ballots to be mailed from the Harrisburg post office by the county’s print and fulfillment vendor, David A. Smith Printing
October 19 – Voter registration deadline or to make changes to your voter information
October 27 – Deadline to apply for a mail-in or an absentee ballot (Although this is the deadline, Anderson is encouraging people to apply no later than Oct. 20.)
November 6 – All mail-in ballots must be in the hands of county election officials by 5 p.m. on this date. Postmarks must be no later than Tuesday, Nov. 3.
It was noted that voters must either send their mail-in ballots via the postage-paid envelope that’s being funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or that they can drop off their ballot at one of two places: the county’s election office or in a drop-box that will be located to the rear of the county courthouse.
“A sheriff’s deputy will monitor the dropbox while it is available between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to about 4 p.m.,” Anderson said. “I want to note that only one of two employees will remove the ballots from the dropbox and then the ballots will be put in our vault. We are taking security for this very seriously.”
A major point of emphasis in election security, Anderson added, is ensuring voters only have access to one ballot.
“I think it is important for people to understand that one of the big things with this election is, we don’t want to see multiple ballots out there,” Anderson said. “And if you receive a ballot in the mail, it is the exact same ballot that will be at the polling location. There is no difference in the ballots, just how you do it (vote).”
Anderson also emphasized that if people wait until Oct. 27 to request a mail-in or absentee ballot that those individuals will most likely have to hand deliver their ballots to his office or the dropbox since all ballots for this election must be received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.
To help ensure peace of mind when voting by mail, it was noted that absentee and mail-in ballot voters can register their email address at votespa.com to receive various notifications – when their mail-in ballot request is received, when the ballot has been mailed to the voter, and one after their ballot is counted.
Because votes can’t be counted until 7 a.m. on Nov. 3, Anderson asked for voters to be patient in receiving their official notification, which is sent by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“Please be patient in receiving the notification,” Anderson said. “You won’t get notified that day or even most likely the next day because there is a process to getting the votes scanned into our system.”
Ultimately, the key is taking steps to ensure your individual voting voice is heard during what is expected to be an election that generates high voter participation – especially if you plan to vote by mail, according to Anderson.
“Once you get your ballot and if you know how you want to vote, then vote and get it back in as soon as possible,” Anderson said. “We want to make sure we have your ballot and that your vote gets counted.”
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Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames, Bob Phillips, and Jo Ellen Litz were advertisers on LebTown during previous election cycles. Ames Home Services is a current advertiser on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.