Ballot drop off locations in Allegheny County unanimously approved by Board of Elections

PITTSBURGH — Voters in Allegheny County will have six new locations to drop off mail-in ballots.

The Board of Elections approved a plan to open drop-off locations on the two weekends before the April 23 primary.

>> Lawsuit against Allegheny Co. Executive Innamorato aims to stop opening of ballot drop-off locations

In the end, the member who filed a lawsuit against the plan decided to support it.

>> Allegheny Co. Executive Innamorato to expand ballot drop off; councilman blasts decision

Before approving the plan, the board heard from community members who support it and those who don’t.

“I stand in favor of drop box locations. This is not a drop box issue but a voter suppression issue,” said one community member who supports drop boxes.

“Why create more unnecessary concerns about election integrity,” said another, who opposes the plan.

The controversy took center stage last month when democratic Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato announced plans to open five drop-off locations.

The county opened multiple drop-off sites during the pandemic but discontinued the practice.

Innamorato’s announcement surprised her fellow Board of Elections members, republican Sam DeMarco and democrat Bethany Hallam.

Both said they were not aware of the plan.

DeMarco then filed a lawsuit accusing Innamorato of violating election law by failing to first get approval from the board.

Both parties entered a consent order with a judge last week who said the proposal for drop-off locations must go before the Board of Elections for a full vote.

On Wednesday Innamorato presented the plan and the resolution which included an additional drop-off location in McKeesport.

The proposal passed unanimously.

DeMarco even voted for it.

“If we’re taking and providing something that’s open to everyone that has demonstrated to be safe and secure, with staff members, with police officers, and all this then I don’t have a problem with people being able to utilize this,” said DeMarco, who also expressed concern that a court decision is holding up the printing of the ballots and they may be mailed out late. He said he didn’t want any of the ballots to get caught up in the mail, and not get counted.

The drop-off locations will be fully staffed with three election workers and an Allegheny County police officer will be outside all of the six locations. The ballots will be deposited in a box with a tamper-proof seal. When the drop-off locations close for the day, election workers will take them to the warehouse where they will be put under lock and key. The area is also under 24 hour camera surveillance. The police officer will also follow the election workers to make sure the ballots are secured.

After the vote, Innamorato blamed the misstep on her staff.

“We went in front of our county manager, our director of administrative services, our director of elections, folks who have been here, our solicitor, folks who have been here for many elections and who advised us that we had the authority to do so but you know what there’s nothing wrong with having more public voice,” said Innamorato.

If the drop-off locations are successful, Innamorato said she would likely try to open them again for the general election in November.

Voters can also drop of ballots at the county office building downtown during certain times.

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW