Flashpoint Extra: Pa. officials prepare for uptick in mail-in ballots as state rolls out new option for voters

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Pennsylvania Department of State is working to implement the commonwealth’s new mail-in ballot options for voters. Officials are also making a number of policy changes to make it easier for professionals during the COVID-19 crisis.

The mail-in ballot option allows Pennsylvania voters to cast their ballots via mail for any reason or no reason at all.

“Whether it's because you’re going to be out of town, whether you don’t feel like going to the polling place or whether you need to be at home because of the current circumstances,” said Kathy Boockvar, secretary of the Commonwealth.

She said the Department of State has launched the online application for the mail-in ballot at votespa.com.

“It’s super quick, very easy,” said Boockvar. “I highly suggest that you enter your email address because you’ll get a notification when your application is received, when it's approved, when they send out your ballot and once you send in your ballot, when it is received.”

In order to apply for a mail-in ballot the first time, voters will have to provide information from their state-issued ID and signature to prevent fraud. Boockvar noted Pennsylvania is preparing for a huge uptick in mail-in ballot applications because of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Part of the changes will require legislative approval. 

One of the efforts includes changing current law to allow counties to begin counting ballots earlier before election night to ensure safety in light of the virus and to ensure the races can be called on Election Day.

“What we’ve proposed is (to begin counting) some period of weeks or days in advance of election day,” said Boockvar, “so that if there are any challenges to the ballots, they can all be heard.”

Boockvar said other secretaries of state in states with no mail-in options have reached out, looking for ways to accommodate COVID-19.

“How to do that effectively and efficiently and to enable voter access,” she added.

Other changes to State Department policy include shifts for licenses for professionals to help those on the front lines provide critical services during the coronavirus crisis. The department oversees more than two dozen boards and nearly 150 professional licenses across Pennsylvania. 

“We wanted to reduce every administrative barrier that we could, extend completion of admin requirements, extend telemedicine, extend scope of practice, make it easier for retirees who want to come help,” said Boockvar. “Every day we are making two to four changes.”

These include extensions for businesses and much more. 

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