By Rick Hiduk
With the passage of Act 77, Pennsylvania now has new laws regarding absentee voting. Already known as the “no excuse ballots,” eligible voters may now request a mail-in absentee ballot for no reason, as opposed to the more stringent criteria applied to absentee ballots in previous years.
“It’s going to benefit all of the registered voters who don’t want to go to the polls,” said Flo Kellett, Wyoming County director of elections. “It gives everyone the opportunity to vote by mail.”
Standard absentee ballots are still available for those who are ill, disabled, or will be absent from their voting district on election day.
Residents who want to take advantage of either balloting process can download and print applications from www.wycopa.org by clicking on Board of Elections & Voter Registration and then Additional Resources. The process can also be done electronically at www.votepa.com. Online registrations will automatically go into the county’s system, and the voter will receive a ballot by mail for every election in that calendar year. The process must be repeated in subsequent years.
The deadline to apply for both “no excuse” and absentee ballots is April 21, the Tuesday prior to the April 28 primary election. Another change in the law is that ballots must be received no later than 8 pm on election night by the County Election Office.
Another change in the law as per Act 77 is that, if one obtains and mail-in or absentee ballot and does not mail it in time, he or she must go to the courthouse in Tunkhannock to drop off the ballot. The only other option at that point is to request a “provisional ballot” at their polling location that would have to be approved by the election board. It would still count as a legitimate vote, but the process ensures that nobody votes twice.
At this time, there will be no changes in how polling locations are staffed. Kellett is hopeful that mail-in voting will catch on. “I’d love to see everyone do the mail-in ballot,” she stated. “It would save the county $50,000 to $60,000 per election. I also think it would increase voter participation.”