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The June 2 Primary, Simplified

Submitted by Bob Griewahn

As mentioned previously, Pennsylvania’s April primary election was postponed to June.  The scheduled date is now Tuesday, June 2nd.  As a judge of elections, I’m urging all voters to vote by mail in the upcoming primary.

How Do I Get a Ballot?

The Allegheny County Elections Division recently announced that all registered voters will be mailed vote-by-mail ballots in early to mid-May.  You may already have received a ballot by the time you read this.  If not, you can still request a mail-in ballot.

Why Vote By Mail?

If you’re like me, you like going to the polling place each election to cast your ballot.  Here’s why you may want to consider voting by mail in this election.

  • Health – This is the most obvious reason to vote by mail.  By avoiding the crowds at polling places, you avoid viral transmission.
  • Fewer Polling Places –  Act 12 was recently signed into law.  Among other provisions, it allows the state to reduce the number of polling locations by 60%.  Allegheny County traditionally has had over 1,300 polling places, but the country recently asked the state to reduce that number to only 200-300 locations.  The new law says that each municipality has to have at least one polling place.  The City of Pittsburgh, however, is an exception:  Pittsburgh has to have at least nine polling places.  Nine.  I expect the city to have more than nine locations, but that figure gives you an indication of the kind of reduction the state government is considering.  So, there’s a very good chance that you will not be voting at your traditional polling place and may have to travel to vote in person.
  • Long Lines – Fewer polling places means longer lines for the voters who choose to vote in person.  The government’s hope, obviously, is that most people will vote by mail, thereby reducing the lines.  Still, there will be voters who show up at the consolidated polling locations.  They probably can expect longer lines than normal.  And, it’s not just due to the reduction in the number of locations that will cause the long lines.  Strict social distancing will be required, which means that the floors will be taped to indicate where voters can stand, and how far apart from each other they must be.  That means that more people may have to wait outside to get in.
  • New Machines – There will be new voting machines this year.  Voters will be given scannable paper ballots to fill out, which will then be fed into a ballot reader.  Since this is an entirely new system, voters are undoubtedly going to take longer to cast their votes.  More time per person means longer lines.  Furthermore, the Elections Division had to cancel many of the training classes for the poll workers who will be assisting voters on the machines.  So, you can expect more confusion than normal if you vote in person.
  • All the Other Reasons –There are a host of reasons people don’t vote in person, even if they intended to.  Bad weather, illness, unforeseen emergencies, prior commitments, etc.  I hear these from my voters all the time: “I always vote, but I couldn’t this last time because of XYZ.”  All those issues can still arise on election day, making it a hassle to vote in person.

So please consider voting by mail.  Even though the county will attempt to send mail-in ballots to all  registered voters, you may want to apply for one anyway.  You can do so at this link:

https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/OnlineAbsenteeApplication/#/OnlineAbsenteeBegin

You’ll need a valid PA driver’s license or PennDOT ID number.  The online application takes only a  few minutes. I did it a few days ago, and it was easy.

Want to check to see if you’re registered?  Go to this link to verify your registration:

https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationStatus.aspx

Want to see who’s on the ballot?  You can look up the sample ballots for your polling place here (Allegheny West is in Ward 22, District 1):

https://apps.alleghenycounty.us/website/ElectPollPlace.aspx

Make your voice heard at the polls this year – by mail!

 

June 2 Primary Election Information

In March, Governor Wolf signed Act 12 of 2020 into law which moved the General Primary Election to June 2, 2020. The act also allows for up to a 60% reduction of polling places through the consolidation of two or more polling places which may be in the same building. Additional changes could also be authorized by the Department of State.

Due to concerns related to holding an in-person election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division of Elections is mailing mail-in ballot applications to every registered, eligible voter in Allegheny County who has not already submitted an application. That mailing is expected to go out in the first few weeks of May. Voters don’t have to wait to receive an application but can go online now to VotesPA and apply online for a mail-in ballot.

Over the past few months, the county has conducted a robust marketing and advertising campaign to reach as many voters as possible to make them aware of the mail-in option. A few weeks ago, the County Executive also directed Elections to step-up the targeted advertising for mail-in voting.

During its April 23 meeting, the Board of Elections considered and approved a resolution calling for further consolidation of polling locations. The resolution was submitted to the Department of State on April 28 along with an outline of a plan for the consolidation of present polling places into likely 200-300 locations.

There will be no fewer than one polling place per municipality, with the exception of the City of Pittsburgh which will have no fewer than nine polling places. The expectation is that in larger municipalities, there will be multiple polling places, but work will be done to provide that they are housed within the same location. As appropriate, additional or alternate locations will also be identified by Elections to further the goal of physical distancing when a large volume of in-person voters are expected. Each location selected will have sufficient space, parking and handicapped access and will be appropriately equipped with ballot marking devices for ADA voter use.

Continuing correspondence and communication will be provided to the Department of State and the public so that there is a full understanding of the polling places being utilized. A related communications plans is also being developed, and this webpage will be updated on a continual basis.

Under normal circumstances, Allegheny County utilizes 1,323 polling places and approximately 6,500 elected and appointed poll workers. Additional staff and resources are needed for overall election operations.

The PA Department of State has issued guidance related to the Use of Facilities as Polling Places during COVID-19. Vote by mail applications need to be received by May 26, and submitted by June 2

Quick Links

Need to verify that you’re registered to vote, or your party affiliation? Check your Voter Registration Status.
Want to see the ballot now? View your Sample Ballot by entering your municipality, ward and district.
Applied for your absentee or mail-in ballot, and want to check on where it is? Use this Ballot Tracking tool.
This link also allows you track your completed ballot once you mail it back to the office. When received, the status will be listed as “Vote Recorded.”

Interested in getting elections updates sent directly to you? Sign up for a free Allegheny Alerts subscription and select “Elections” updates.