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Action Urged to Improve Voting in November

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Consolidation of polling places led to long lines in many areas on primary day. (Voice of America/public domain)
Consolidation of polling places led to long lines in many areas on primary day. (Voice of America/public domain)
June 15, 2020

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Voting-rights advocates say Pennsylvania has to start making changes now to make the voting process go more smoothly for the general election in November.

Fewer polling places, long lines and delayed or missing absentee ballots were just a few of the problems that plagued th primary election held in the middle of an ongoing public health crisis. Consolidation of polling places caused bottlenecks that led to confusion, long lines and hours of waiting to cast ballots, especially in some low-income and minority areas.

According to John Powers with the voting rights project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, state lawmakers need to take steps to give counties more flexibility to manage in-person voting.

"Authorize county boards of election to create vote centers," Powers said. "Allow for curbside drop-off of ballots and give them the resources they need to make sure they don't need to consolidate."

Other recommendations include allowing absentee ballots mailed by election day to be counted up to seven days later and moving up the deadline for processing mail-in votes.

Powers said the Legislature also should take steps to give everyone access to the mail-in voting process.

"Sending absentee-ballot applications to all voters so that voters don't have to go through the process of having to find absentee-ballot applications online or requesting absentee-ballot applications from election officials," he said.

He added that county election boards also need additional funding to fully staff polling stations and provide personal protective equipment for workers and voters.

Powers stressed that November really isn't that far away, and that the primary showed both the Legislature and county election officials need to take corrective actions immediately.

"We saw that waiting too long can result in officials being unprepared to deal with the circumstances that arose," he said. "And we have to, unfortunately, expect the unexpected in these unique times."

He encourages anyone who experienced problems with the primary or in preparing for the election in November to call the nonpartisan election protection hotline at 1-866-OURVOTE.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA