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The Lebanon County Commissioners approved Thursday changes to three polling locations and several other election-related items pertaining to the upcoming general election on Nov. 3.
The three changes to area precincts are:
7th Ward – Will now be in the meeting room of Liberty Fire Company, North 9th Street, Lebanon
Jackson East – In the gymnasium located to the rear of the Myerstown Borough building, 101 S. Railroad Street, Myerstown
North Cornwall South – In the West Hall, Lebanon Valley Expo Center, 80 Rocherty Road, Lebanon
Michael Anderson, Director, Bureau of Elections/Voter Registration, noted signs listing the new locations will be posted at the old locations and that new ID cards will be sent to voters in those precincts.
The commissioners also approved a request to establish Sunday, Nov. 1 as the deadline to compute and tally mail-in and absentee ballots totals received by that date. Those received by the deadline will be announced in the vote totals on Election Day.
“Any ballot, mail-in or absentee, that is received by this office on November 1st, and I know that’s a Sunday, but I basically needed to have a cutoff date,” Anderson told the board. “So it would be counted, canvassed, counted and put in the (announced) results on Election Night.”
For example, if the 1st Ward has 100 mail-in/absentee voters who met the deadline, the election bureau’s system will generate a report showing the number of voters within the ward who registered to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot. The total vote number will be tabulated, along with the accompanying 100 secrecy envelopes containing 100 ballots, and those votes will be included in the announced vote total the night of the election on Nov. 3.
“We are going to do that for all 60 precincts, I just need a cutoff time to have all that ready to do starting at 7 (a.m.) o’clock on Election Day,” Anderson said.
Anderson added that by establishing a cutoff date will allow him to properly plan for the number of workers needed to tabulate votes, which can’t be opened and counted by law in Pennsylvania until Election Day. Anderson expects to run three shifts on Election Day to tabulate the votes.
“When all the polls are closed and all of the results are back on Election Day from all the precincts, we’ll have the ballots counted through November 1 and we’ll be able to show mail-in and absentee ballots on election night,” added Anderson.
When asked a question about when votes must be postmarked to be valid, Anderson informed the board that there are legal challenges pending to the date that are still to be determined.
“I highly stress for people to get them (mail-in and absentee ballots) in as soon as possible to ensure that they are here on Election Day,” Anderson said. “I would encourage people to avoid saying, ‘Oh, I am good, I can mail it later.’ Things can change and change very quickly, as you know, as was evidenced with the latest State Supreme Court ruling.”
Anderson noted that the Nov. 1 deadline, as opposed to establishing it a day or two later, is necessary due to the sheer volume of mail-in and absentee ballots that will be coming into the bureau. He also added that while his office can’t open and count votes, he is permitted by law to do preparatory work that will contribute to a smoother counting process on Election Day. Ballots received between Nov. 2-6 will be counted starting Wednesday, Nov. 4, Anderson added.
“I want people to know that if they get their ballot in by November 1st, that ballot will be counted and put on the results that we show on Election Night,” Anderson said. “I think it is very important that people understand that because I think a lot of people think, ‘Is my ballot going to count? When is it going to be counted?’ If you get it in, it is going to be in those results on Election Night and you are going to be able to see a column that shows absentee/mail-in and what those vote totals are.”
In other election-related news, Anderson informed the board that his office has received about 20 to 25 “naked” ballots, meaning the ballots were not returned within a secrecy envelope. Anderson said that while he believes these ballots should be counted, the State Supreme Court has ruled that they will not count in this election.
“We’ve not done anything at this point, so I want the board to decide what we should do about it,” Anderson said. “Obviously the ones that come in sooner are easier to address, the ones that come in later there will be no time to address.”
Following discussion around consistency and fairness to count some ballots but not others depending on when they are received, the board voted to notify as many people as humanly possible of the error and to include in the soon-to-be-published Public Election Notice to put into a plain, white envelope the ballot if the secrecy envelope is missing.
Anderson noted during discussion that his office received three calls from voters whose mail-in ballots did not contain the required secrecy envelope.
Voters who may not receive the secrecy envelope have several options to rectify the problem: They can use a clear, white envelope as their secrecy envelope and mail it that way; they can go to the elections office to file their ballot in person; or they can request a secrecy envelope be mailed to them. If going to the elections office to get a secrecy envelope, voters must go themselves and present government-issued ID to election officials.
“I just want to point out that there is no conspiracy or anything, it was just a mistake that was found and this is what we’re doing to correct it,” Anderson said about the missing secrecy envelopes.
In the final action item, the commissioners approved a request to allow registered voters, who must quarantine due to COVID-19, to still vote via mail-in ballot if they are quarantined after the Oct. 27 mail-in registration deadline through Election Day. A designated representative of the quarantined person must fill out a form allowing pick up of an emergency ballot on behalf of the quarantined voter.
Anderson included in his report two important deadline reminders for voters:
Oct. 19 – 5 p.m. is the Register to Vote deadline
Oct. 27 – Request mail-in ballot
All mail-in and absentee ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Voters without a registration form can get one at the election bureau office or can register online at votespa.com.
Anderson closed his comments by saying that nearly 92,000 people have registered to vote in the upcoming election, which is “a lot for this upcoming election cycle.”
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