Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Voting by mail? What you need to know

Montco primary election, voting processes explained

- By Rachel Ravina rravina@thereporte­ronline.com

NORRISTOWN » With two weeks to go, Montgomery County election officials expressed confidence about operations relating to the May 17 primary.

“Montgomery County is well positioned to administer a free, fair, safe, and secure election for the 2022 primary,” said Dori Sawyer, county director of elections.

The deadline for voter registrati­on lapsed at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, but there are still a handful of resources voters should know before casting their ballot, either by mail or in-person on Election Day.

For those voting in person, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Voters will help select nominees for the U.S. Senate and House of Representa­tives, governor, lieutenant governor, all state House seats, state Senate seats in even-numbered districts and for Democratic and

Republican state committees.

Pennsylvan­ia operates a closed primary, meaning only voters registered as Democrats or Republican­s can receive a ballot to select nominees for the general election.

“We’ve got all of our polling locations secured,” Sawyer said. “We’re just wrapping up a few more poll worker placements, but mail-in ballots have been mailed and are being mailed daily to those who have applied.”

The county voter services office flagship location at One Montgomery Plaza, Suite 602, 425 Swede St., in Norristown, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 7.

The county’s voter services office will open satellite offices from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following dates:

“In the past two election cycles, we have operated satellite offices, and drop boxes throughout the county to ease the burden on residents who wish to vote in person, apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot and receive it in person, or return their mail-in or absentee ballot to the county directly,” Sawyer said during a county election board meeting last month.

There was a 27.32 percent voter turnout rate in last year’s primary election, according to Sawyer. Of that figure, 9.43 percent of voters cast their ballot by mail and 17.96 percent voted in-person. Additional­ly, there was less than 1 percent of provisiona­l ballots accounted for, Sawyer said. The 2018 primary election had a 20 percent voter turnout rate.

Here’s what you need to know about voting by mail.

How can I request a mailed ballot?

Voters can apply online by visiting www. vote.pa.gov, apply in-person at the county elections office or contact the county elections office directly to request a paper applicatio­n.

You will need to apply with a valid Pennsylvan­ia identifica­tion card or supply the last four digits of your Social Security number.

What is the deadline to apply for a mailed ballot?

The deadline is May 10 — seven days before the primary. But election officials ask that voters request a ballot as soon as possible.

How do I vote with a mailed ballot?

1. Carefully open the ballot package when you receive it in the mail.

2. Make sure there is a secrecy envelope included because a mailed ballot not in a secrecy envelope, also known as a naked ballot, will not be counted.

3. Fill out the ballot immediatel­y.

4. Place your ballot in the secrecy envelope, then put the secrecy envelope into the official envelope. Be sure to sign and date the declaratio­n or your ballot will not count.

5. There are several ways you can drop off your ballot: at the Montgomery County Office of Voter Services, any open satellite offices, by mail or via a drop box.

Where are ballot drop boxes located?

Eleven drop boxes became operationa­l on Saturday and will remain available 24 hours a day under video surveillan­ce until 8 p.m. on Election Day, according to election board officials. The drop boxes are available throughout Montgomery County at the following locations:

“If you’d like to take a little bit more time, you’re certainly welcome to utilize one of our 11 secure ballot drop box locations, and just keep in mind that voters should only be returning their own ballot unless they … have been designated as an agent on behalf of another person,” Sawyer said. “So if a voter is disabled and unable to get to a drop box, they can designate another person to take their ballot for them.”

Those interested in obtaining a designatio­n should contact the county’s voter services office at 610-278-3280.

What if I don’t get my mailed ballot?

No problem. You can go to your assigned polling place and vote in-person by filling out a provisiona­l ballot if you have not received your mailed ballot.

What if I signed up for a mailed ballot but want to vote at the polls?

If you misplaced your mailed ballot or have decided to cast your ballot at the polls, you still have an opportunit­y to vote.

Go to your assigned polling place. If you have the mailed ballot, you will need to surrender the ballot and its envelopes to the judge of elections to be voided in order to vote on the voting machines. If you misplaced the mailed ballot, you will need to tell the judge of elections and they will give you a provisiona­l ballot to fill out.

Public comment focuses on election criticism

A number of residents shared their frustratio­ns and criticisms of the county’s election protocols at several previous boards of commission­ers and election meetings. Voting processes with respect to voting by mail have dominated several previous public comment sessions.

“To put everybody at ease with what’s going to happen in 20 days on May 17, I think what we are all asking for is total transparen­cy,” said Upper Salford Township resident Kurt Stein during an April 27 election board meeting. “You know how are things going to work to ensure that, and I’m sure the Board of Elections has a plan. We would like to know what that plan is.”

Sawyer said that voters with questions or concerns to reach out to the county’s voter services office by email at voters@ montcopa.org.

“I would just encourage them to contact our office directly,” Sawyer said. “… Folks who have come to the meetings and made public comment, (we) have actually had really great conversati­ons with those people, and really helped correct maybe some misinforma­tion, or given them new informatio­n to kind of assuage their concerns. Of course feedback from the public is welcome.

“We’ve been able to move polling locations based on public feedback and even get more people involved. We are still looking for poll workers, we are still looking for mail-in ballot canvassers,” she continued. “So if election integrity is something you’re concerned about, I would encourage that people get more involved to really see how everything is done.”

MediaNews Group staff writer Karen Shuey contribute­d to this report.

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