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PA Fair Election Advocates Hopeful Despite Difficulties

Fair-election advocates say Pennsylvania's primary served as a dry run for the November election. (rawpixel.com/Adobe Stock)
Fair-election advocates say Pennsylvania's primary served as a dry run for the November election. (rawpixel.com/Adobe Stock)
June 3, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Despite the COVID pandemic, massive protests and curfews in major cities, fair-election advocates say Tuesday's primary appears to have gone pretty smoothly.

This was the first time all Pennsylvania voters were given the option to vote by mail, and almost 2 million did, representing a massive increase in absentee voting.

For those voting in person, there were some voting-machine failures and a few delayed poll openings -- and consolidated voting districts may have meant longer trips to the polls for some. However, Scott Seaborg, state director of the group All Voting is Local, said it appears no one was denied the right to cast a ballot.

"Local election officials have really done a heroic job dealing not only with social distancing and the pandemic," he said, "but at the same time, these astronomically large numbers of vote-by-mail ballots."

Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order extending the deadline for six counties to receive mail-in ballots to June 9, but they still must be postmarked no later than June 2.

Although there were reports that the Postal Service erroneously returned some mail-in ballots to voters in Allegheny County, Seaborg noted that many are viewing the primary as a dry run for the general election in November.

"The issues that we've seen on a granular level with logistics and operations around vote-by-mail ballots, I think, are part of those growing pains," he said.

He added that there is now time to apply lessons learned from the primary election process to make future elections go more smoothly.

President Donald Trump has claimed that mail-in ballots will lead to massive voter fraud, but Seaborg pointed out that absentee ballots have been in use for decades, and Pennsylvania has significantly enhanced ballot security for expanded mail-in voting.

"Vote-by-mail balloting is a perfect tool for keeping socially distant," he said, "as well as making sure that our votes are secure and safe."

He said he's confident that voting by mail will be even more successful in November.

More information is online at allvotingislocal.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA