Hundreds of more people could vote by mail this year in Snyder County thanks to a new state law that allows online applications and doesn't force voters to provide a reason for applying.
“Now they don’t need a reason to vote” by mail, said Snyder County Elections Director Pat Nace, who has received 30 requests for absentee ballots under the law that was launched Tuesday by Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar.
Nace said she expects hundreds of more people in the county will vote by absentee ballot in the April 28 primary.
Voters have until 5 p.m. April 21 to apply online to vote by mail-in ballot for the primary.
“This is the first election in which Pennsylvania voters have the convenient option of voting by mail-in ballot, without having to provide a reason for choosing it,” Boockvar said. “Thanks to historic bipartisan legislation signed into law by Gov. (Tom) Wolf last fall, we are making voting easier and more accessible for all eligible Pennsylvanians, including longer voter registration periods and permanent mail-in and absentee voter lists.”
Act 77 allows Pennsylvania residents who choose not to go to the polls or who are unable to go to mail in a ballot or cast a ballot at their county election office during the office's business hours. Voters who will be away from home on election day — due to college classes, military duty, etc. — or who have a disability or illness that prevents them from going to the polls can apply for an absentee ballot. Absentee voters must give a reason for applying.
Ballots will be mailed to both mail-in and absentee applicants, who must complete and return them to the county election office by 8 p.m. on election day. Applicants can request to have a ballot mailed to them annually. Identification requirements for mail-in and absentee ballots, and more information about voting in Pennsylvania can be found at the Department of State's website, votespa.com.
Pennsylvanians can now register to vote up to 15 days before an election — April 13 for this primary — under the new act.
Counties must begin processing mail-in and absentee ballot applications 50 days before the election — March 9 for the April primary.
In 2016, 400 Snyder County voters cast absentee ballots because they were out of the area or homebound, Nace said. This primary election, Nace expects about 600 absentee ballots will be cast. She anticipates hundreds more will take the option of mailing in their ballot in the November election.
That could have an impact on the speed of the vote count on election night.
Nace said her office staff will aim to count all the absentee ballots immediately after the polls close but said it may not be possible for some counties to accomplish the task in a few hours.
“The results candidates are waiting for may not be available right away,” she said.
Daily Item reporter Marcia Moore contributed to this report.