By Jen Ericson
Although more voters than ever before are eager to vote in November’s presidential election, many are concerned about contracting COVID-19 if they vote in person or that their vote won’t be counted if they vote by mail. Fortunately, Lancaster County’s Board of Elections (LCBE) has plans to make both voting methods safe and secure. Most critically, however, are the steps voters should take to make sure their vote is counted.
June’s primary was the first in which PA voters could use mail-in ballots. Prior to that, the most absentee ballots LCBE ever had to process in one election was 12,432. Absentee and mail-in ballots get processed the same way. During June’s primary, LCBE received 63,000 absentee and mail-in ballots. Counting those took over a week.
How Lancaster County’s Board of Elections is Preparing
Randall Wenger, chief clerk and registrar for Lancaster County Board of Elections and Registration Commission, said his office expects to receive 120,000 absentee and mail-in ballots in November. In preparation, LCBE has ordered an additional high-speed scanner, procured a counting scale, and hopes to hire 30 temporary employees. That would be more than twice the number usually hired.
During the primary, several scanners were unable to read ballots because they had been printed with incompatible ink. To prevent this problem in November, LCBE plans to use a different printing company.
COVID-19 threatens to cause a shortage of poll workers in November. Such a shortage could lead to polling place consolidation. “Our goal is not to consolidate this November,” Wenger said. Polling place consolidation would cause longer lines at the polls (and be a deterrent to voting.) Wenger hopes more people will apply to be poll workers so that all polling places can be properly staffed. His office is also trying to make sure polling places are large enough to allow poll workers and voters to practice social distancing.
What Voters Can Do to Protect Their Vote & Democracy
The most important thing everyone can do to protect democracy is vote! Those who need to register to vote or update their voter registration can do so at votespa.com. The deadline to register or update a registration is October 19.
Mail-in ballots are just as secure as voting in person. Those who want to vote by mail need to request a mail-in ballot no later than October 27. However, because there will be such high demand for mail-in ballots, we recommend requesting one well before that deadline.
Those who voted by mail in June and want to know if they will receive a mail-in ballot for November can check their mail-in status by visiting LCBE’s website or calling 717-299-8293.
Wenger cautioned that those who need to update registration and request a mail-in ballot should not do both at the same time. Due to the way these are processed, he explained, voters should update their registration first and wait until they receive their updated voter registration card before requesting a mail-in ballot. This will ensure a ballot is sent to the correct address and reflects the voter’s new registration information.
Voters who haven’t voted in a while or who aren’t sure of their registration status can easily check it by visiting VotesPA.com. This same check will also identify a voter’s party and polling place.
Voters Can Do More Than Vote to Protect Democracy
Voting is the most important but certainly not the only thing voters can do to protect democracy. They can also consider becoming a poll worker or Democratic Party volunteer.
In order to ensure that no polling places have to close or consolidate, LCBE needs plenty of poll workers. Half and full-day openings will be available. To learn more or to apply, visit VotesPA.com. No previous experience is necessary.
Finally, Lancaster County Democratic Committee needs volunteers to help with Democratic candidates’ campaigns and to make phone calls and write postcards encouraging voters to participate in November’s election.
Those interested in doing more to protect Democracy should visit LancasterDems.com today!
October 19 – Last day to register to vote in the general election
October 27 – Last day to request a mail-in ballot
November 3 – Election day