Last week, recognizing the importance of voting in this election for seniors and, in fact, for voters of every age, I drafted my column with step by step instructions for mail in balloting. It must have hit a nerve since I received responses and this seemed like a good time to address some of them in a postscript.
Locations. First, by way of clarification, at the time I wrote last week’s column the drop box and satellite offices for Chester County Voter Services were not yet fully in place. So when I referenced the drop box at the Government Services Building on Westtown Road which is 24/7 this was not intended to imply there would not be other drop boxes in addition to that one. In fact there now, as of October 13, are several as well as satellite offices. Current drop box locations include libraries at Avon Grove, Chester County Library in Exton, Coatesville, Downingtown, Easttown, Honey Brook, Kennett, Phoenixville, Parkesburg, and Spring City. Check hours of operation for these locations at https://www.chesco.org/4758/Drop-Off-Locations.
In addition to the Voter Services office on Westtown Road, the County now has two full service and staffed Satellite Voter Services offices – one at the Henrietta Hankin Branch Library at 215 Windgate Drive, Chester Springs and one in Southern Chester County at the Oxford Public Library, 48 S. Second Street, Oxford, PA. Again, check for hours of operation. If you are reading this and are registered to vote in another County, you should reference on line similar locations in your County.
Disability. Another question concerned the circumstance where a voter, by reason of physical disability is unable to provide a regular signature in the place for signature on the return outer envelope. There is a procedure noted on the envelope itself where a mark can be witnessed. Follow the directions there, if needed.
Security. I have watched several television programs describing mail in voting. One point that I do not believe has been emphasized enough is how the ballots are identified and tracked. Bar codes are used to identify the voter. This allows the system to track the vote every step of the way. For those who have a driver’s license or the equivalent government issued ID, this is linked to that. Otherwise the voter needs to apply separately. After voting by mail an email is received directly from Voter Services indicating that the ballot has been received. It further indicates that, since the vote has already been entered, the voter is not eligible to vote at the polls on election day.
If You Want To Vote In Person. If you have not voted by mail you can still vote in person if you wish on November 3 and your polling place will likely be the same. If you decide to do this, be prepared to wait. If you requested a mail in ballot and changed your mind and have not yet voted – not a recommended practice – you would need to bring your entire packet including the blank ballot, the privacy envelope, the return envelope and the envelope in which you received the materials – everything – to the polling place on election day to allow them to cancel it out. This is obviously not an ideal situation and would delay voters following you. In the alternative, you could go to Voter Services or one of the satellite Voter Services offices before election day and go through the same process.
The recommendation overall is that if you have started the mail in ballot process you should continue it. Mail-In Ballots are secure. The sites are monitored by camera and staffed. If you have a question whether your ballot has been received you should know that, on receipt, the receipt of your ballot will be noted on the tracking website and acknowledged by email to you. As stated before, mail in ballots are not counted until Election Day but some Pennsylvania counties, including Chester County have upgraded their equipment for faster processing to avoid delays. Nationally it may take some days or more for an exact tabulation but if there is an overwhelming response the likely result could be reasonably known in a shorter period of time.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.