Mail-in ballots for April’s primary election should be sent to Lebanon County voters sometime next week.

“We’re shooting for no later than the 26th,” said Sean Drasher, director of the Lebanon County Elections office. “They should hit the mail on March 26 and people should start getting them in the mail on the 29th.”

Expected delivery is one business day (a Friday) before the county’s new satellite office is open to start collecting mail-in and absentee ballots on Monday, April 1. The temporary drive-by office will be located in the parking lot on the south side of the county municipal building on 8th Street in Lebanon.

“It’s almost like it was planned, but it did work out perfectly,” added Drasher. 

Ballots can be delivered by voters at that location during regular county business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The lone exception is Election Day on Tuesday, April 23, when the satellite office will be open the same hours as the polls, which are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Drasher said the new office, which will be housed in a shed that’s being built by Myerstown Shed, should be delivered next week. 

“The ballot drop-off box is rolling along,” said Drasher. “The shed is to be delivered in about a week and a half. We’re having power run out there before the shed arrives.”

Drasher is also scheduling workers for the 17 days the shed will be operational.

“We’re putting together a schedule of people who are volunteering – we’re having a lot of people coming out of the woodwork who say they are interested,” he said. “We’re giving priority to people who are able to work a full day shift to keep things simple. We have quite a few slots to fill out yet, though.”

Five weeks before the election, Drasher said he’s satisfied with the progress his office has made, with one exception.

“I’m not nearly as worried as I was a few weeks ago because everything is coming along,” he said. “The shed is the big thing. They’re telling me – they’re telling me – that it is going to be here on time.”

This photo shows the location of a manned drive-by drop box on the south side of the municipal building that will be used to accept mail-in ballots delivered to that location by county voters beginning April 1. Traffic flow is off Elm Street to the drop box, which is located on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Voters also have the option to park their vehicle and walk their ballot to the box or to deliver their ballot to the county’s election offices on the second floor of the municipal building. (Provided photo)

Drasher said the shed is being custom built to the county’s specifications. 

“It’s going to have windows all the way around and three cameras will be around the building,” said Drasher. “And there will be a multi-view camera under the awning. There will be electricity in it in case any county employees work there. They can plug in and do their work while manning the booth.”

Whether Lebanon County would have a drop box for mail-in and absentee ballots in 2024 was in question after County Commissioners voted 2-1 on Jan. 18 to stop using it. 

Since the 2020 general election and for the next seven election cycles, Lebanon County voters had the option to deliver their mail and absentee ballots to the drop box during regular business hours at the county municipal building. 

However, Republican commissioners Mike Kuhn and Bob Phillips voted to end its use while Democratic commissioner Jo Ellen Litz voted for the drop box system to remain intact. 

Read More: Kuhn & Phillips nix secure mail-in ballot drop box at county building entrance

Both Republicans cited security concerns and ensuring election integrity; however, neither identified any instances of suspected voter fraud during an election in Lebanon County.

Litz said the drop box was the most secure way for voters to return their mail ballots, and that people did not trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their ballots on time.

Read More: Lebanon County Commissioners discuss mail drop box controversy

During a follow-up article a week after the January removal vote, Kuhn informed LebTown that he was not opposed to having a more secure drop box. At that time he said he was open to having a discussion concerning ways to create a more secure drop box that is also convenient for voters. 

This mail-in ballot box was used for seven consecutive elections beginning in 2020 prior to county commissioners voting in January to stop using it. A new drive-by mail ballot drop box will be installed in the parking lot of the county municipal building. (Photo by James Mentzer)

Public comments at subsequent standing-room-only meetings in February and March supported having a drop box for convenience and to accommodate voters with disabilities. 

Concerns were also raised about long lines outside the elections office and that individuals would have had to go through security on the first floor to deliver their ballot to the second floor of the municipal building after potentially waiting in lines of up to 45 minutes.

Following lengthy discussions at their March 7 meeting, commissioners voted 2-1 to implement the satellite office and open it on April 1. All three commissioners voted at one point during the meeting to establish the drop box location, with a total of three votes taking place over different proposals for a start date and the number of individuals needed to staff the drop off location.

Read More: County commissioners commit to new drive-by drop box for mail-in ballots

Although the original targeted delivery date of mail ballots was March 14 this year, that was delayed due to several lawsuits that were filed in Commonwealth Court and one that may go to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. 

“The big question, without a doubt though, is the concern with the people on the ballot who are going to be removed after the ballot goes out to voters,” said Drasher. “This issue is not unique to Lebanon County. Every county in the state is in the same boat.”

Given the uncertainty of the length of the litigation, Lebanon County election officials decided to move forward with the names that are currently on the ballot.

“There will be an insert with mail-in ballots that this candidate was removed after the printing of the ballot and there will be flyers in the polling places providing the same information,” said Drasher. “If we had decided to push back (mailing) for another week, we would have been three weeks out from the election and that’s not enough time to get mail ballots back. The only way to avoid that was to send out the ballots with their names on it.”

Drasher noted that test ballots were at the printer’s warehouse on Monday and undergoing Logic and Accuracy testing. 

L&A testing is a series of pre-election steps intended to ensure that ballots, scanners, ballot marking devices, and any component of a county’s certified voting system are properly configured and in good working order prior to being used in an election. These steps must include every protocol that counties will use in the actual election.

Drasher said the number of requested mail-in ballots, which currently sits at about 6,200, is lower than expected for this election cycle.

“Requests for mail-in ballots are down,” said Drasher. “When I talk to my colleagues around the state, their numbers are down, too. Everyone was gearing up for them to be way over previous elections.”

Drasher noted there are reasons that number is lower than expected. 

“The Republican committee has some contested races in the precincts, but the Republican and Democrat (presidential) races are done. That’s what was driving the (ballot request) turnout for the primary, but that is now done,” said Drasher.

He noted that in Lebanon County the one contested primary race is on the Republican ticket in the 102nd Legislative District with incumbent Russ Diamond facing challenger Rachel Moyer.

Concerning the issue of unsolicited mail ballots, Drasher said the election office only sends mail ballots that are requested by voters. “Mail-in requests have to be specifically requested in writing by mail or online for ballots to go out of this office,” he added. 

No-excuse mail-in ballots were put into law by the state Legislature with the passage of Act 77 in 2019. The law specifies that ballots must be received by each county’s Board of Elections no later than 8 p.m. on the day of voting. It does not require ballots to be mailed.

The law also does not require counties to have a drop box for the return of mail ballots.

Important Election Dates

  • April 8 – Last day to register to vote (as either a Republican or Democrat).
  • April 16 – Last day to request a mail-in ballot.
  • April 23 – Pennsylvania Primary Election – Polls open 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...


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