Voters and elections officials worry that unusually high demand for mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania could leave some people unable to vote in the June 2 primary.
Mail-in ballots must be received by county elections officials by 8 p.m. on June 2, next Tuesday, to be counted. A postmark prior to that time will not count. To ensure all votes are counted, the U.S. Postal Service recommends that voters mail their ballots at least one week before election night.
The coronavirus pandemic, as well as a new election law allowing Pennsylvania residents to vote by mail for any reason, has increased the number of mail-in ballot requests for this election. Philadelphia alone has already had 225,000 mail-in ballots requests, The Inquirer reported. In the 2016 primary, just 107,000 absentee ballots were requested in the entire state.
Although Philadelphia elections staff and other city employees have been sending mail-in ballots to voters for weeks, election officials say some voters may not receive their ballot in time for it to be counted on June 2.
Voters who request a mail-in ballot but do not receive one before election day can vote in-person with a provisional ballot. Because of the coronavirus, Philadelphians will be able to vote for the primary in-person at a reduced number of polling places. The city will have 190 polling places open, compared to 831 in November’s municipal election — a 77% reduction, according to the Inquirer.
This year, in-person voters will go through a check-in process at their appropriate polling places, during which they will be given a facial mask and gloves. In addition, floors will be marked according to physical distancing guidelines.
To address the backlog and delay in mail-in ballots, Philadelphia has also set up drop-off boxes for residents who do not receive their ballots in time to mail them. City elections officials have said, however, that ballots will not be counted until the day after the election. Ten different pop-up sites will be available on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for voters to drop off their ballots. Elections officials have not yet released the locations of Tuesday’s drop-off boxes.
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