Mail-in, absentee ballot applications surge for June primary


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania counties have processed about 283,000 applications for mail-in and absentee ballots, and nearly three times more applicants are from Democrats compared to Republicans.

The state’s primary has been moved back to June 2, so the numbers are likely to continue to climb. Four years ago, before mail-in balloting was allowed in the state, about 84,000 Pennsylvanians cast primary votes by absentee ballot.

Officials say concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak are driving interest in remote voting.

Dauphin County director of elections, Jerry Feaser, said he anticipates that 50-60% of the county’s roughly 160,000 registered voters could vote by mail, having received more than 9,000 applications already. The county’s previous record was about 7,000 absentee ballots in November 2004.

He said the county has hired a third party to handle those mail-in ballot requests, which are only sent if you fill out the application.

“We know who we’re mailing ballots to and we know that they’re coming back, and that each person only gets one ballot,” said Feaser.

He said the county, like many across Pennsylvania, is also struggling to secure enough polling sites and workers as many locations and personnel have backed out, over health concerns. So far, Feaser said the county’s lost anywhere from 25-30% of the its poll workers.

“That doesn’t maybe sound like a lot except for the fact that we have a new voting system and the people that we’re gonna try and recruit haven’t been trained on how to use the new system. And we don’t have the luxury of training a lot of people because we’re unable at this time to gather in large groups. There’s so much that is in play right now, so much that’s new, that we’re just trying to catch our breath. We’re really scurrying around here trying to find alternative locations that could potentially serve multiple polling places. We’re jugglers and sooner or later, they’re gonna throw more balls than we’re able to keep up in the air.”

Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said so far, the county has processed more than 12,000 mail-in ballot requests and expects to easily hit 20,000 for the June primary. In 2012, the county only processed about 2,000 absentee ballots, and in 2016, that number was about 4,000.

In York, county officials said at least 10,000 mail-in ballots have already been requested, and like others, its number of mail-in ballots is expected to rise over the next few weeks.

The Health Department said Tuesday that 60 new deaths from the coronavirus were reported over the past day, raising the total to 584.

(Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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