This past Sunday marked 100 days until the Election Day in November, which is highlighted by a highly polarizing presidential election.
Nearly half of eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 General Election, but Pennsylvania has passed an act that could increase its voter turnout.
Act 77 was passed in October 2019, and allows Pennsylvanians to vote by mail without having to provide an excuse.
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase the number of mail-in ballots even more.
Lisa LaBarre, Chairwoman of the Bradford County Democrats, says mail-in voting is good for anybody who is concerned about their health.
“Healthcare workers who don’t want to expose themselves would be good candidates,” she added.
Additionally, mail-in voting allows people who work in long shifts to ensure their ability to vote.
“I’ve contacted people on Election Day reminding them (to vote), and they were already at work for a 12-hour shift, so they don’t get the opportunity to vote. Shift workers and people like that would be able to vote well ahead of time,” LaBarre said.
“A lot of people, particularly in Bradford County … are working long shifts,” she added, specifically citing people who work in the gas industry. “We have essential workers who are working overtime, who are not going to be able to get a chance to go in person, possibly. This opens it up so that you can be sure your vote will be in and your vote will be counted.”
Applications for mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania are available now, and must be received by October 27.
The United States Postal Service suggests mailing the application to the local elections office not later than 15 days before the election. This allows one week for the ballot to be mailed to the recipient, and another week to mail it back once it is completed.
LaBarre suggests applying and completing your ballot as soon as possible in order to prevent clogging the mail system.
“I know there were some minor issues in Bradford County in (the primary) with the mail-in ballots. We don’t want that in the General Election,” she said. “If people start early and get them mailed in, they have plenty of time to get counted.”
The state created a system that allows mail-in ballots to be delivered in person to drop boxes, guaranteeing that they are received.
Ballots must be submitted in the provided secrecy envelope for security purposes, otherwise it will not be counted.
However, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, and the elections offices of all 67 Pennsylvania counties have sued the state, calling the drop boxes unconstitutional.
“Permitting absentee and mail-in ballots of nondisabled electors to be collected at locations other than the offices of the county boards of elections and/or through ‘drop boxes’ and other unmonitored and/or unsecured means and to be counted when not cast in the manner mandated by the Election Code allows illegal absent and mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, and other fraud to occur and/or go undetected, and will result in dilution of validly cast ballots,” the suit says.
The lawsuit was filed days after Trump voiced his disapproval of mail-in voting on Twitter.
“The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and ‘force’ people to sign,” one tweet from the president said.
LaBarre countered this by saying mail-in voter fraud has not been a widespread issue in the past, and tampering with any mail is a felony.
“This is the first year that we’ve been hearing about that. In this country, and different states, we’ve been voting by mail since the Civil War,” LaBarre said. “The military has voted by mail for a long time and there have never been any concerns that I’m aware of on a large scale.”
LaBarre was in the Army and her husband served in the Marines.
“I don’t see a reason we need to disallow anybody from voting by mail for any reason,” she added.
Despite the disapproval from Trump, the Pennsylvania GOP has a page on its website dedicated to promoting mail-in voting, and even made note of the security.
“Republican legislators, together with the Chairman of the PA GOP, made certain there were key voter protections in Act 77, which include strong chain of custody and other significant oversight provisions to assure every vote is counted and accounted for,” the site said.
The site also urged Republicans to vote by mail to offset the anticipated increase of Democrats doing the same.
The Morning Times made several attempts to contact Bradford County GOP Chairman Richard Harris, but did not receive a response.
Additionally, Bradford County Director of Elections Renee Smithkors was unable to discuss any aspect of mail-in ballots due to the ongoing litigation.
LaBarre is encouraging people to vote no matter what, regardless of the method.
“I consider it a civic duty. Most of us like to complain about who is in office, but if you want to take part in the process, you have to go vote,” she said. “A lot of people have fought for our right to vote, and I think that it’s important to get out and exercise it.”