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New mail-in ballots will likely delay final results

LOCK HAVEN — Attention Clinton County voters.

There are some changes in election laws this year and you need to know about them.

The recent election law changes will give Clinton County voters greater flexibility this election year, according to Voter Registration and Elections Director Maria Boileau, who explained the new changes to the Board of Elections at their meeting Monday.

However the changes, which include new mail-in ballots, will most likely delay final election results as they need not be turned in until 8 p.m. on election day. That’s the new deadline for absentee ballots, also.

The 2020 elections are the first to be held since the passage of Act 77 of 2019, considered the most significant change to Pennsylvania’s Election Code in decades. Gov. Wolf signed it into law on Oct. 31, 2019.

Under Act 77, Pennsylvania voters now have several ways to vote if they choose not to go to the polls or are unable to get to the polls on election day. The options are mail-in ballot or absentee ballot, both of which they can vote via the mail or in person at their county election office.

— Mail-in ballots are for voters who simply wish to vote by mail before election day, instead of going to their polling place on election day. They do not have to give a reason or an excuse. They can apply online for a mail-in ballot, or download and print the application and mail it to their county election office. Voters can also apply for and vote the ballot in person at their county election office during business hours.

— Absentee ballots are for voters who will be away from their home municipality on election day or who have a disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polls. Absentee voters must give a reason. Examples of absentee ballot voters include college students away at school, members of the military, people absent from their home municipality because of work or a vacation and people who cannot go to the polls because they are observing a religious holiday.

Deadline to apply for mail-in and absentee ballots is April 21. Both mail-in and absentee voters will receive a ballot in the mail to complete and return to their county election office by 8 p.m. on election day. Only the voter can return their ballot to the county.

The online application allows mail-in voters to request that their county election office add them to an annual mail-in voter ballot request list. Their ballot application will then be automatically mailed to them each year. ID requirements for mail-in and absentee ballots can be found at www.votespa.com.

Boileau explained that the mail-in option is expected to significantly increase the number of votes cast and that it also will change the way that they are counted.

Previously, absentee ballots were sent from the elections office to individual polling places, where they were counted at the close of voting on Election Night. The new act requires mail-in and absentee ballots to be kept at the county Voter Registration and Elections office, where the counting must begin within three days after the election and conclude by the eighth day. She cautioned the board that the expanded absentee and mail-in voting will slow the reporting of election results to the public.

“Voters are going to have to be a little more patient in waiting for results to be tallied and posted,” stated County Commissioner Miles Kessinger.

The Clinton County Board of Elections agreed that the Voter Registration and Elections office should begin to process absentee and mail-in ballots on Wednesday, April 29, and it may take a few days to complete the process.

“Act 77 allows for eight days to process those ballots and we want to get this right,” stated Clinton County Commissioner Jeff Snyder.

NEW VOTING

EQUIPMENT

Boileau also reminded the Board of Elections that the voting machines are relatively new and a large majority of voters participating in this year’s election may not have used the new voting equipment.

Voters are encouraged to visit the Voter Registration Office at 2 Piper Way in Lock Haven to see the new machines, which were purchased through Election Systems & Software (ES&S). Voters now use a paper ballot that is scanned into a ballot box.

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