2.2 million mail or absentee ballots already returned in Pa.

John Hansberry demonstrates an extraction machine at the city's mail-in ballot sorting and counting center

John Hansberry, with the Philadelphia City Commissioners office, demonstrates an extraction machine at the city's mail-in ballot sorting and counting center in preparation for the 2020 General Election in the United States, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Ask us: What do you want to know about voting and the 2020 election?

More than 2.2 million mail or absentee ballots have already been returned, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said Friday. That accounts for 73% of ballots requested.

More than two-thirds of the ballots are from registered Democrats.

For comparison, 266,208 civilians cast absentee ballots in 2016, and 248,561 in 2012, Boockvar said at a press conference.

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Just over 9 million Pennsylvanians had registered to vote as of Friday.

“It’s amazing how many Pennsylvanians have taken advantage of their opportunity to vote early,” Boockvar said. “To vote before election day.”

She also encouraged voters to get their ballots in as soon as possible. Boockvar said it’s expected that most of the votes from the election will be counted by next Friday, maybe sooner.

At the press conference, Boockvar and state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine also addressed COVID-19 safety concerns as cases trend upward in the state. Levine offered assurances that polling places would be sanitized by masked poll workers and suggested that voters head to the polls with a COVID kit.

“Your COVID kit should include a mask, hand sanitizer, a blue or black pen,” said Levine. “We strongly recommend that you download the COVID Alert PA mobile app to your phone.”

Voters will be asked to maintain social distance while waiting in line and will need to wear masks at the polls, Levine said.

The contentious presidential election has stoked fears of aggression and violence that could affect voters. Boockvar said that there have been no signs of such events to come, but that officials continue to monitor the situation.

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“So far, there has not been anything reported that’s been of immediate concern,” Boockvar said. “This is in constant monitoring and constant preparing for the worst and hoping that none of it comes to pass.”

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