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Several officials including Gov. Tom Wolf have said voting by mail would help limit the spread of the coronavirus by keeping more people at home. Nearly 2 million people - out of 12.7 million residents - had applied for mail-in ballots in the state, Wolf said Friday.
But some officials have expressed concern that not everyone will receive their ballot with enough time to get it back to their county elections office before 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 2: the hard deadline.
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Many places have added drop boxes so voters can get ballots straight to the county and not wonder if the mail will make it in time. Unless something changes, such as a court order, elections offices cannot accept ballots received after 8 p.m. on June 2.
In non-pandemic years, the state has handled a volume of 200,000 absentee ballots, given only to people with a disability, or soldiers overseas, who would have a documented reason that they could not make it to a polling place. But this Tuesday's primary is the first election with a new kind of mail-in ballots, which were available to anyone as long as they're a registered voter. (The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot for this election passed this week. They will also be available for the general election in November.)
If you applied and didn't yet receive your mail-in ballot, it might arrive after Election Day depending on the speed of the U.S. Postal Service in delivering it to you. Here's what to do.
How to File a Provisional Ballot
A provisional ballot is used when the elections office in your county needs more time to determine if you're eligible to vote – for example, when someone is expected to vote by mail and shows up in person. Provisional ballots are also used when someone's name is not showing up on voter rolls, and the county will need to verify their information later.
You cast a provisional ballot at your polling place, which you can search for here (be aware that it might have been changed from the last time you voted, due to the pandemic.)
Then, according to VotesPA.com, you can follow these steps:
- Complete and sign the provisional ballot affidavit on the back of the provisional ballot affidavit envelope.
- Mark your provisional ballot in an accessible and private area of the polling place.
- Seal your provisional ballot in the secrecy envelope.
- Seal the secrecy envelope in the provisional ballot affidavit envelope.
- Sign the front of the provisional ballot affidavit envelope.
- Return the sealed provisional ballot affidavit envelope to a polling place election official.
- Receive your provisional ballot identification receipt.
If you never applied to vote by mail, you won't need a provisional ballot. You can just check for your polling place and vote there, safely.
New Access for Blind Voters
According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Jennifer Wilson issued a temporary restraining order on Wednesday that requires the accessible write-in ballots for those who have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To be eligible, disabled voters must have applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot by the Tuesday deadline and they may not have turned in a voted ballot.
To obtain an accessible write-in ballot, voters must email email@example.com by 8 p.m. Friday, and include their full name, date of birth and the address where they are registered.
They will be sent a declaration form that must be filled out and authenticated with a Pennsylvania driver’s license, a valid state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
They will then be able to vote at home using screen reader software.