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Mail-in, absentee ballot applications surge for Pa. June primary

People wearing a protective face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus take photos with the Rocky statue outfitted with mock surgical face mask at the Philadelphia Art Museum in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

People wearing a protective face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus take photos with the Rocky statue outfitted with mock surgical face mask at the Philadelphia Art Museum in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Pennsylvania counties have processed about 283,000 absentee and mail-in ballots for the June primary, and requests from Democrats are three times more common than from Republicans, state elections officials said Tuesday.

The Department of State said 89,000 absentee ballot requests have already been processed, with the June 2 primary still seven weeks away.

During the 2016 primary, 84,000 votes were cast under the absentee ballot system, which is available only to those who offer an acceptable reason they would not be able to vote in person.

Counties have already processed 195,000 requests for mail-in ballots under a state law passed last fall that permits them for any voter who requests one.

Pennsylvania has about 4.1 million registered Democrats and 3.3 million Republicans. Of the absentee and mail-in requests for the primary processed so far, about 209,000 are from Democrats and 73,000 from Republicans.

Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said remote voting applications jumped after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued orders closing schools and businesses not considered essential to sustaining life.

“First of all, the mail-in option is brand new, and now, with the COVID-19 situation, people want to vote at home, and we’re encouraging that,” Murren said. “We really have no way of knowing what this will end up looking like.”

In a Wisconsin statewide judicial election held last week, preliminary results indicated absentee ballots accounted for about seven in 10 of all ballots cast, compared with 12% during a Wisconsin Supreme Court election last year.

Some of Pennsylvania’s most populous counties have begun asking about conducting the June 2 primary election entirely by mail amid fears the pandemic will pose a threat to poll workers and voters.

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