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Casting a ballot – almost as easy as one, two, three

Voters in the upcoming April 28 primaries will, for the first time, decide whether to go to the polls as they have traditionally done for every previous election in which they have participated or mail in a ballot — no questions asked.

It’s a decision voters had to ponder in the past only if they were seeking an absentee ballot, in which case they needed a legitimate excuse — away on business, illness, incapacitation, etc.

Aside from the obvious reason of making one’s vote count, people have some strange reasons for turning up at polling places. I overheard a woman tell a church volunteer who was selling baked goods off to the side at the polling place that the only reason she votes is “because it gives me an excuse to buy some of your delicious shoo-fly pies.” Go figure.

As of Feb. 11, the state has opened a website where voters can request a mail-in ballot. Based on a survey of several counties in the Times News region, expected voters are responding at an even greater rate than anticipated.

Voting officials know this demand will intensify once unaffiliated and third-party voters are eligible to vote in the Nov. 3 general election.

Because Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, independent, nonpartisan and third-party voters are ineligible to vote for Republican or Democrat candidates in primaries

The ability of voters to opt for mail-in ballots came about as part of the massive election reform law signed last fall by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Online applicants must supply a driver’s license number or an identification card number issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, as well as their name, address, phone number and email address.

Prospective voters can also use the site to apply for an absentee ballot. They will be asked questions to determine whether they qualify for one.

These questions include whether they will be traveling on Election Day, whether they are ill or have a physical disability that will prevent them from voting in person, whether they are college students who are not registered to vote at their school’s address, members of the military or an inmate who hasn’t been convicted of a felony.

The deadline for county election offices to receive mail-in or absentee applications is 5 p.m. April 21.

The deadline for county election offices to receive a completed mail-in or absentee ballot for the coming primary elections is when polls close at 8 p.m. April 28.

Voters can choose to download and print the application and mail it to their county election office, or apply in person. Here is the web address, where you can also check to find out whether you are registered to vote: https://www.votespa.com/Voting-in-PA/Pages/Mail-and-Absentee-Ballot.aspx

Don’t forget that ballots won’t be completed until several weeks before the primaries, after which they will be mailed to those who applied.

As I had reported previously, several counties may not have the vote completed until the day after the primaries because of the anticipated flood of mail-in ballots.

Despite this concern, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, whose department oversees elections in Pennsylvania, said her agency is working with county election officials to try to address this expectation.

She also said that she and her staff are consulting with officials in some of the other 30 states where mail-in votes are allowed to determine how they handle any problems which arise.

This way, she said, they will not have to reinvent the wheel.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com