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Mail-In Voting Adds Another Layer for Counties

Wednesday, February 19, 2020 @ 12:02 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

VotingCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Act 77, a historic election reform bill signed last year, does more than mandate new voting machines.

Some of its requirements will also add another layer of work to the election process, according to a discussion at the Tuesday morning work session of the Clarion County Commissioners.

The law adds mail-in ballots in addition to absentee ballots to the voting mix.

“From the sounds of things, a lot of the other counties are getting more staffing and it’s going to be a lot more work because it is adding another layer to the process,” said Chief Clerk Taylor Best, who attended a recent meeting about the voting laws with Director of Elections, Cindy Callihan.

According to, Act 77 states:

  • Act 77 allows more convenient and secure voting. Most voters can now vote by mail-in ballot, and voters will have more time to register to vote and to return their absentee or mail-in ballots. In addition, the Act provides $90 million in funding for new voting systems.
  • You may now vote by mail-in ballot unless you qualify as an absentee voter, in which case you must vote by absentee ballot. If you want to vote by mail you must apply for a mail-in ballot. You do not need to provide a reason or excuse if you want to use a mail-in ballot. The county must receive your application for a mail-in ballot by 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election.
  • You can return your voted mail-in ballot by mailing it to your county board of elections using the envelope provided, or you can drop it off in person at the board of election’s office. Whichever way you choose, the County must receive your voted ballot by 8:00 p.m. on election day in order for it to be counted.
  • Absentee and mail-in ballots must now be counted centrally at the county board of elections office. They will no longer be sent to polling places and counted there. Canvassing (or counting) must begin by the third day after election day and must be finished within eight days after the election.
  • You no longer have a shortcut straight-party button to vote for all candidates of one party. However, this change does not prevent you from selecting only candidates from one party. It simply removes the shortcut button option. If you want to vote for all candidates of one party, you will have to select the candidates one at a time.

Commissioner Ed Heasley acknowledged the new staffing demands.

“We’ve got to have more staff come election day,” said Heasley. “We may not have the count done until the next day, and in some counties, the larger ones especially, if you get them in at the last minute.

“We’ll just use our existing county employees.  We can have a whole crew that works election day. We’re not going to hire anyone extra, just use some of our admin staff as needed. We’ll take care of it.”

Callihan demonstrated the voting system following the meeting. Although the machines are not yet in Clarion County, she showed a “trainer” model that included a large touch display screen for actual voting, a printer for a paper copy of the ballot and a scanner to accept the ballot from the voter and then maintain a paper copy.

Callihan noted that a new voting machine will be available later in the lobby of the Administrative Building at 330 Main Street.

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