PITTSBURGH — With the presidential election a little more than a month away, we know that you have a lot of questions like when the results will be ready and what to do if you have a mail-in ballot but want to vote in person.
Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle is getting answers to these important questions and many others. He spoke exclusively with the woman who is responsible for elections in Pennsylvania.
Earle began the one-on-one interview by asking Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar if she feels an added pressure because of the importance Pennsylvania will likely play in deciding the Presidency.
“It’s a critical state for either candidate. Do you feel added pressure?” Earle asked.
“I don’t have a low stress job, but I have the best team in the world,” Boockvar said. “They are working around the clock to make sure every Pennsylvanian gets to vote in a safe secure and accessible election.”
Boockvar is gearing up for the Nov. 3 general election and for an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots because of health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had almost 1.5 million ballots cast by mail in the primary, and a little over I think over 1.3 million in person. So that was the first time ever that more voters chose to vote by mail than in person, which is great. Allegheny County was one of the top, I think the top county in the state in terms of mail-ins, so we might see 3 million Pennsylvanians take advantage of it in the general election,” Boockvar said.
While Allegheny County received rave reviews for counting all those mail in ballots in a timely manner, that was not the case in other parts of the state. Philadelphia took nearly two weeks to count mail-in ballots. Boockvar said this time around is different. Counties now have had more time to prepare.
“In the primary as you may recall everything came, converged at once, right? You know, the new voting systems. You had the COVID, you had COVID-19. You had this tremendous volume of mail-in votes and then we had the civil unrest. So, the combination of those four things happening all at once made it extremely tough even for counties to get the ballot in the mail early. That’s different than now. I don’t think the whole state has had that kind of lock set on sending out the ballots weeks early, ever. So, most voters that have already applied are going to be getting their ballots weeks and weeks before the Election Day,” Boockvar said.
Boockvar is now urging voters to immediately fill out and mail in their ballots so there’s no delay. She said voters who received a mail-in ballot, but now want to vote in person instead have an option.
“What’s new this election is if you apply for mail-in ballot, but you have not cast it and come to Nov. 3, and just want to go in person. Take the whole thing, so the ballot, the inner envelope the outer envelope - the whole thing to your polling place and you’re going to void it. You’re basically going to sign a declaration saying, ‘I hereby hand it in. I haven’t voted and I want to vote in person.’ You’ll sign a declaration and then you’ll be allowed to vote on the polling machine,” explained Boockvar.
To expedite the counting process, Boockvar said many counties upgraded equipment to process mail-in ballots. Allegheny County purchased a new sorter that can open 100,000 ballots per hour.
Earle asked Boockvar if election results will be ready on election night, or if it will be a long drawn out process because of the mail-in ballots.
“So, I think somewhere in between. I think we should expect if it’s a close race just like whenever we have close races right, whenever we have close races, it takes more time. The closer the race, the more time it will take but I think we’ll know within you know within a couple of days,” Boockvar said.
In the wake of that State Supreme Court decision disqualifying those so-called naked ballots, the secretary is also reminding voters to make sure the mail in ballots are placed inside that secrecy envelope before they are put in the mail.
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