In the midst of attending to the hundreds of tasks that must be completed in order to safely stage the Nov. 3rd general election during a worldwide pandemic and properly handling and tabulating thousands of mail-in ballots, election officials in our local counties have been doing an excellent job explaining the mail-in voting process for those who will be using it for the first time.

Clear instructions are vital because correctly following the specified process and deadlines can make the difference between a mail ballot being counted or voided.

First things first. All voters in the Nov. 3rd election, regardless if they plan to visit the polls or use a mail ballot, must be registered to vote. The registration deadline for all of those who are not currently on the voting rolls is Monday, Oct. 19. Voting registration can be completed in person at your county election office, by mail, at PennDOT driver’s license centers or some other government agencies and online by visiting — votespa.com — an official government website.

All registered voters are welcome to visit the polls from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Locations are listed on county election office websites. COVID-19 social distancing and health protocols will be in place at all voting locations.

Starting this year, all Pennsylvania voters have the option to vote by mail. Once registered, any voter can apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. Oct. 27 at the election office in your county of residence. Voters can obtain an application form at any county election office, online at the votespa.com website or by presenting a valid driver’s license or ID to the state Department of Transportation.

Once a voter’s application for a mail ballot is verified, the election office will mail an election ballot to the voter’s home.

Here’s where a number of details come in. Election officials encourage mail voters to read all instructions carefully, including how to mark their selections on the ballot. Then, every ballot must be secured in the “secrecy envelope” before placing it into the post-marked return envelope. The state Supreme Court has ruled that secrecy envelopes must be used for every ballot.

“If you don’t put it in the secrecy envelope, it will be voided,” said Greg Katherman, director of elections and voter registration in Union County.

Next are the deadlines for returning a completed ballot. All mail ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. Nov. 3 — the day of the election — in order to count. Voters also can hand-deliver their ballot to their election office or other officially designed site prior to the 8 p.m. Nov. 3 deadline — the same time the polls close.

If a voter submits a mail ballot, they can not vote at the polls on election day, but if a voter applies for a mail ballot, but does not return or submit it, they may cast a ballot at the polls on the election day after election officials verify they have not voted by mail.

Details and deadlines are important to ensure a fair and secure election, and we salute the hard work of all election officials and personnel in our local counties for making it all happen in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial Board. Today’s was witten by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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