Well, the October 19th date to register for the upcoming November 3rd election has come and gone. This year’s presidential election will be historic in many regards. The one we hear much about is the absentee/vote by mail option, which has now come into play for the American voter.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Forrest Lehman, Director of Elections and Registration for Lycoming County, to get just the facts about mail-in ballots and hopefully provide useful information to Lycoming County voters.
Before I get started one, I want to clarify that Pennsylvania Government passed Act 77 far prior to COVID or anything that has occurred in 2020. The intention of this bill was to allow and encourage more voting by fellow Pennsylvanians via Absentee/Mail-In ballots. Our federal and state governments have used Absentee/Military ballots since the Civil War.
My major concerns about this new and untested method at the state and national level are that the United States Postal Service cannot handle the volume and security needed for an election of this magnitude. It’s ridiculous; our local mail-in ballots will travel to Harrisburg to be returned to our area like daily mail. And the overall confusion that has been created for voters using mail-in ballots.
I want every American citizen to have the opportunity for their vote to be counted and encourage every American registered to vote by whatever means they choose. Mr. Lehman’s goal and mine is to make sure every County residents’ vote is counted.
Now, on to the facts. All 81 voting precincts in Lycoming County will be open for in-person voting. There will be a few new polling places, however. Everything needed to be known about voting in Lycoming County can be found at http://www.lyco.org/vote. We will also be publishing these new polling places in next week’s edition.
If one has changed their mind and want to vote in person, can they? No matter your absentee/mail-in ballot status, you can complete a Request to Cancel Permit Status. The quickest and simplest way to enact this is at the voter services website. You can also do this at the Office of Voter Services.
However, if you have a mail-in ballot or have yet to receive one, you can show up at the polling place and request the same option. The only problem is it will be more time consuming and may cause a backup at the voting site. If you’ve already mailed the ballot, trust the system in place here in Lycoming County. You cannot drop a mail-in/absentee ballot off at a polling precinct for counting. Believe me, Forrest and his gang will do everything possible to make sure every vote is accounted for.
Voters can track their Absentee/Mail-In ballot at pavoterservices.pa.gov/pages/ballottracking.aspx — there are problems with the site Mr. Lehman has pointed out to state officials. A status of “pending” is normal and means that your application has been approved and processed. This is very confusing. There is often discrepancy in the “ballot mailed on” date on the website. Several counties have made the state aware of this issue, but it has not been corrected.
If you have not mailed your ballot, you can hand-deliver it to Voter Services, 33 West 3rd Street, downtown Williamsport, which is right across from the County Courthouse. You may also place it in the U.S. Mail to Voter Services at 48 West 3rd Street, Williamsport, PA 17701. Remember, all ballots must be hand-delivered or postmarked by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, November the 3rd, to be counted. Each voter must deliver his or her ballot in person if choosing this option. If a ballot is not received via USPS by Friday, November 6th at 5:00 p.m., it will not be counted.
Please make sure you follow the proper protocol in the completion of your Absentee/Mail-In ballot. This begins with completing the actual ballot then sealing it inside your official absentee ballot envelope. Do not write on or mark on the absentee ballot envelope in any way, or your ballot will be null and void. The sealed official absentee ballot envelope must then be placed inside the official mail-in ballot addressed envelope to the Board of Elections, Lycoming County. Make sure to complete the voter’s declaration on the back of the envelope. Then seal said envelope and don’t forget the stamp!
Now some interesting numbers provided by Forrest. There will be a new modern record of nearly 73,000 voters registered in Lycoming County. All told, Mr. Lehman expects about 50,000 of the registered residents to actually vote. As of October 15th, all of the nearly 13,000 voters who applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot had been processed and mailed. Voters are seeing mail delivery times of 2-7 days, with 3-4 days being most common.
There were about 10,500 Absentee/Mail-In ballots requested in the Primary Election in June. 7,504 returned. Forrest estimates that nearly 14,000 will request mail-in ballots and expects about the same 75% return rate.
Tip of my Red, White, and Blue cap with the American Flag on the front to Forrest and the ladies at the Office of Elections. I can’t even imagine how much more work this mail-in concept for the masses has created. If you have any questions, they’re there to help you. Give them a call or stop by.
God Bless America.
Lycoming County Office of Voter Services
33 West Third Street
Williamsport, PA 17701
8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.