The Pennsylvania primary is postponed until June 2 and voters are urged to take advantage of the state’s new mail-in voting option.
The state joins over 10 others who have postponed their primaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the state Voter Services Department, the delay is important to allow for more absentee voting and to safeguard polling places for poll workers and in-person voters.
The new date to apply for mail-in voting is May 18.
All voters are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the absentee and mail-in voting options, according to a statement from Voter Services.
- Absentee Ballots are for registered voters who are unable to vote in person at the polling place because they will be out of the municipality for work or school, or because of an illness or disability.
- Mail-in Ballots are for registered voters who are not eligible to apply for an absentee ballot, but who wish to vote by mail instead of in person at the polling place. No excuse or reason is required.
Act 77 was passed in October, 2019, allowing any registered voter to mail in a vote without a special excuse, according to Forrest Lehman, director of Voter Services for Lycoming County.
An application for a mail-in vote should be submitted by April 21, according to the state Voter Services office.
It’s the first year for no-excuse absentee voting, according to state Rep. Garth Everett, and the 2020 primary was ment as a “dry run” for the new process.
“At this point it’s still an unknown,” he said, adding that other smaller bills to amend the process are in the works, but the Legislature will wait until after the primary to put any amendments into action.
“Right now we are just going to see how it goes,” he said.
Despite the convenience of mail-in voting, the current structure makes it impossible to see election results on election night, as most are accustomed to, Lehman said.
Since the state requires that the mail-in votes can’t be counted until after 8 p.m. on election night, it will likely not be until the next day when all the votes will be counted.
“Election night results may not be as definitive as they used to be,” Lehman said.
Regardless, Lehman believes the mail-in voting option will catch on, both in the primary and in future elections. Especially, given the current health crisis, avoiding large crowds will spur more to send in votes by mail.
There is some confusion surrounding the difference between absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, Lehman and Everett both admit.
Absentee ballots have historically been solely for those who can’t make it to the polls due to work, medical or school.
However, the new mail-in voting process doesn’t require any excuse and, according to Lehman, makes absentee ballots obsolete.
It’s very possible that the absentee ballot option will be eliminated in the future, Everett said, but not until after the primary.