Voting in person or waiting to receive your mail-in ballot in Pennsylvania? Here’s what to expect

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With only five days until the Nov. 3 election, nearly two million Pennsylvanians have already returned their mail-in ballots. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, over three million total mail-in ballots have been requested in Pennsylvania, with 35% of these ballots not yet submitted.

But what if Pa. voters haven’t received their mail-in ballots yet? The early, in-person voting deadline ended at 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, but mail-in ballots will be counted up to three days after the 2020 general election as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3. State officials have also told counties to separate ballots that arrive after Tuesday, Nov. 3 but by Friday, Nov. 6. The law right now says these ballots can be counted, but that could change.

On Wednesday, Pa. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar urged voters to submit their ballots in person or simply wait to vote in person on Election Day. “Cast [your vote] now, do not wait,” Secretary Boockvar said.

In York County, voters are doing just that. Leading up to the mail-in ballot registration deadline, voters instead decided to apply for, fill out, and submit their ballots on sight. The York County Election Office experienced a long line of these early voters. In order to protect voters and their ballots, County election officials and a Sheriff’s deputy actively supervised the ballot dropbox, as well.

Boockvar’s advice also comes after voters were told to exercise patience leading up to Nov. 3. when it comes to having election results. However, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries and other County election officials are optimistic about ballot counting.

On Wednesday, Pries demonstrated ballot-counting equipment, saying that, if all goes well, nearly 50,000 ballots and all in-person votes would be counted by the end of Election Night.

In Cumberland County, the opposite may be true. On Wednesday, Cumberland County officials said they wouldn’t start counting ballots until Nov. 4.

According to a county statement, “This affords county officials the ability to concentrate on the smooth operation of our polling places and to ensure that appropriate COVID-19 precautions are in place at all polling locations for the safety of our residents and poll workers.”

Cumberland County isn’t alone in this decision: Franklin and Erie have also chosen to wait until the day after the election to count absentee ballots, as well. However, Secretary Boockvar encourages voters to trust the process and state election officials.

“The dedication and integrity of election officials across the Commonwealth is simply unparalleled,” Boockvar said.

For voters who may have a concern about whether or not their mail-in ballots were received, Pa. voters can track the progress of their ballots here. And for those waiting until Nov. 3 to cast their ballot, many counties throughout the Midstate have implemented safety precautions to limit the spread of germs and ensure voter safety at the polls.

On Oct. 27, Lancaster County Election Director Randall Wenger said all 240 polling places in Lancaster County would be well-equipped with PPE gear, including face masks, hand sanitizer, and plexiglass sneeze barriers.

On Oct. 28, Pries shared similar plans for Dauphin County, and both county officials encouraged voters to bring their own blue or black ballpoint pens to limit the spread of germs, as well.

Whether voters have submitted a ballot through the mail, in person, or plan to wait until Election Day, Pennsylvania is set to have a major influence on the outcome of the 2020 general election. Since the Commonwealth holds 20 electoral votes, both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have brought their campaigns to multiple cities and towns in the battleground state throughout the past two weeks.

On Monday, Oct. 26, Biden campaigned in Delaware County. Meanwhile, President Trump was encouraging residents to get-out-the-vote during a campaign visit to the Lancaster Airport in Lititz, Pa.

Both candidates encouraged Pennsylvanians to vote, but with slightly different narratives. President Trump highlighted his efforts to keep America safe by building up the wall and tearing down terrorism. He also emphasized the need to “get back to normal life.”

Biden, on the other hand, criticized President Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, and specifically his mostly mask-less rally in Lancaster County on the same day.

For more information about Election Day and voting in Pennsylvania, residents can visit the Voting in Pennsylvania page on the state’s website.

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