‘Voters should not worry’ about ballot-status updates, says Pa. secretary of state

Jean Gary drops off her ballot at City Hall

Jean Gary, a North Philadelphia resident, drops off her ballot at City Hall. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated at 6:18 p.m.

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

On Monday, the final day people could register to vote in Pennsylvania, more than 56,000  submitted applications, bringing online registration for 2020 past the 1 million mark. For comparison, more than 858,000 people registered online in 2016.

The total number of registered voters in the commonwealth now exceeds 9 million, a record high, according to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.

“So we’ve had a huge increase since 2016, and it’s really impressive and heartening to see so many Pennsylvanians wanting to participate,” Boockvar told reporters on a call Wednesday. “We expect very high voter turnout.”

But the higher turnout expected for this contested election, in which Pennsylvanians’ votes are highly coveted, comes with growing pains and a plea for patience.

As of Wednesday, more than 2.8 million voters had requested mail and absentee ballots and 1.1 million ballots had already been returned.

Boockvar said her office has received emails from concerned voters who have dropped off their ballots or mailed them back but have not yet received email confirmation updating them on their status.

“As the volume of these returned ballots grows, some counties, as I’ve mentioned, are receiving thousands a day, so they’re not processed as soon as they’re received,” said Boockvar.

The good news is that as counties wrap up the effort to get mail ballots out to those who have requested them, they can shift their focus to processing them, said Boockvar.

“So voters should not worry if they do not get the status update email immediately,” she said.

Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence echoed the sentiment. He said it’s taking a few days for ballots to be processed because of the sheer number that are coming in on a given day. 

Still, voters who applied for a mail-in ballot before Oct. 10 and have yet to receive it can now go to the county’s voter services website to get help. 

Voters can now fill out a ‘ballot status request’ form and a person should call them back within 48 hours to let them know where their ballot is or to go through voting options.

Lawrence said more than 115,000 ballots have been returned to the county through drop boxes or the mail and that with the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot looming, people shouldn’t wait.

“I would encourage you to use the satellite office if you can, but please don’t wait until October 27 unless there’s absolutely no other option,” Lawrence said of mail-in ballot applications.

Montgomery County officials said even though the ballots may take a few days to be processed, people’s votes will still count.

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