It may be too late to return your Pa. absentee ballot by mail. Here's what to do instead
Tuesday was the deadline to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot. York Daily Record
More than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians have already voted in a year that has seen record voter registration numbers, and nearly 114,000 of those votes were during in-person early voting. Historical voting behavior trends in the state show the number is likely to keep growing ahead of Election Day.
As early voting continues and Tuesday's election looms, officials are working to ensure security and safety at the polls.
New staff members have been hired, more mail ballot envelope-opening machines have been purchased and back-up security plans have been put in place.
Physical safety, too, is a concern for elections officials. Although no county reported fear of specific threats on Nov. 3, they do have plans in place as necessary.
Now all that's left is to wait.
But with less than a week left until Nov. 3, local election officials are suggesting that those voting absentee-by-mail, now drop off their ballots in person.
"Put it in overnight mail to your county election office if you have to," Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said, "but we really recommend that you drop it off in person. There are more drop-off locations than ever before in Pennsylvania."
Election data from the Secretary of State's office shows the number of mail ballots returned to counties so far this year exceeds the total number cast by mail in 2012 and 2016 combined. In 2016 for instance, only 266,280 absentee ballots were cast in the entire commonwealth.
When will we have results?
Boockvar said many county election officials aim to count all the ballots by midnight — a goal they didn't accomplish in June, when primary ballots were still being counted into the early morning hours of the next day.
She expects most of the unofficial totals will be available across the state by midnight, she said. Election results are not official until they are certified. This year, that is expected to take place Nov. 23.
While other states allow advance processing for early ballots, Pennsylvania must wait until Election Day, and Boockvar is strongly encouraging counties to begin their work on the absentee ballots at 7 a.m. But even if they don't, she said the public would still have a good idea of what mail-in ballots are still outstanding at the time polls close. Counties can begin reporting the results at 8 p.m. after the polls close.
If I requested a mail ballot, can I change my mind and go to the polls?
With the surge in early voting this year, Boockvar said she expects the lines on Tuesday to move rather quickly. The holdup — if any — she suspects would come from voters waiting to use provisional ballots on Election Day.
"I think ultimately the lines will move faster in that there’ll be so many fewer people, but there are going to be different bottlenecks than there normally are," she said. "So the way the polling place is set up is really important in managing that."
This is the first year any Pennsylvania voter can vote by mail, and as the pandemic ripped through the state, the demand for these ballots was at an all-time high.
The problem now is that some voters who requested a mail-in ballot are now deciding they want to vote in-person, which complicates the process.
It’s not as simple as throwing out your ballot or leaving it at home. You need to bring your ballots and envelopes to the polls and officially surrender them to the judge of elections and sign an affidavit before being allowed to check into the poll books and vote on the machines.
"What we may see is lines for provisional ballots, which is not something that you usually see," Boockvar told reporters. "One of the things we want to talk to counties about is making sure they have adequate space for provisional ballots."
Voters who request mail-in ballots but don’t bring them to the polls — for whatever reason — will need to use provisional ballots, which are paper ballots set aside and counted after other ballots are tallied. That’s to prevents officials from counting both a mail ballot and in-person vote from the same person.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO.
A look at the numbers
Total Voter Registration
- Democrats = 4,228,962
- Republicans = 3,542,313
- No Affiliation = 911,397
- Other = 399,261
- Total = 9,081,933
Total approved mail-in and absentee applications statewide
- Democrats = 1,946,570
- Republicans = 786,208
- Other = 362,623
- Total = 3,095,401
Total number and percentage of ballots in the process of being mailed
- Total approved applications = 3,095,401
- Ballots confirmed for mailing = 3,063,619
- Returned Ballots = 1,978,482
Total number of mail/absentee ballots returned
- Dem = 1,354,623
- Rep = 426,431
- Other = 197,428
- Total returned = 1,978,482
Breakdown of how many over-the-counter votes have been cast
- 113,749 ballots returned via counter
Also of interest: