Last October I authored a few columns outlining procedures for voting under Pennsylvania’s relatively recent voter laws. We are now into primary voting season with election day on May 18 and it seemed time to revisit those observations. As with interpretation of any new laws, this process is at the writer’s peril. So, here goes with some updated information. Readers are also free to update me..
This is a Primary But Independents Can Still Vote – There are Ballot Questions. One sticking point in Pennsylvania primary elections, those designed to nominate candidates from each party, is that most often voters registered as independent are unable to vote because of their lack of party affiliation. In this election there is a separate non-partisan ballot which includes ballot questions regarding amending the State Constitution. The Democratic and Republican ballots also include the questions. Briefly summarized the first two questions concern whether the State legislature should have the power to terminate or extend a disaster emergency and terminate or extend the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity (Amendment 1) and whether a disaster emergency declared by the Governor would expire automatically after 21 days “regardless of the severity of the emergency” unless the General Assembly takes action to extend (Amendment 2). These are obviously in response to the Governor’s actions in declaring COVID-19 emergencies but would apply to any Governor and any emergency such as flood or fire and could potentially impact federal funds for emergency disaster relief. Questions 3 and 4 have not aroused much controversy. Amendment 3 is equal rights regardless of an individual’s race or ethnicity. Amendment 4 approves making municipal fire and emergency medical services companies eligible for loans.
Voting Procedure Needs to Be Followed Carefully. For all practical purposes we broke in voting procedure by mail-in and absentee voting in the November elections. There are some differences now.
If you requested “Permanent” Vote By Mail Ballots when you signed up for the November election you should know that “permanent” status needs to be renewed every year. Voter Services of your County would have sent you in February, 2021 a letter regarding your status. If you are, like me, someone who quickly reads a letter, notices a Request to Cancel Permanent Voter Status at the bottom and thinks you can disregard because you do not intend to cancel, you need to read further. On the reverse there is a Permanent Mail-In Voter’s Annual Application to Vote by Mail for 2021 Elections. You have to renew.
If you did not return the form and want to obtain a Mail-In Ballot, all is not lost. You can go to votesPA.COM/ApplyMailBallot and follow the directions online. You must act quickly, though. You must receive, complete and return your application for a ballot to Voter Services no later than May 11 and then return your ballot to be received at Voter Services no later than Election Day, May 18.
Drop boxes were authorized to be used for return of ballots in the November election. I do not have information at this time regarding drop boxes for the May 18 Primary Election.
Voting in Person Follows Usual Procedures With Covid-19 Protective Provisions. If you plan to vote in person on May 18, you should just locate your polling place and vote as usual with, however, COVID-19 procedures and protections in place – mask, social distancing and so on.
Things to Know About the Primary Election. There will likely be a multitude of candidates on the ballot. These include local elections for School Board Director, Township Supervisors, Mayor, Magisterial District Judge, Judge and Inspector of Elections and Constable. At the County level, candidates are listed for Treasurer, Controller, Clerk of Courts, Coroner and Judges of Court of Common Pleas. Statewide candidates include Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court. Some races in your party will likely be uncontested at this level. There might not be candidates listed for some local races. Some positions allow cross filing where candidates can list themselves on both party ballots. This is not an uncommon practice and does not need to be interpreted against an individual candidate. If you need more information you can ask.
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.