Residents have requested 700,000 vote-by-mail applications as of last week. That is four times the number of applications requested for the 2016 primary.
Several voting rights groups filed a lawsuit on Monday to give Pennsylvanians more time to return their ballots for the upcoming presidential primary.
This year, the state will host its first primary election where voters are allowed to use a vote by mail option. Before 2020, residents needed an excuse to vote by mail.
State officials predict an increase in voter turnout between 15 and 20% because of the new option. According to reporting by the PA Post, voters have requested 700,000 vote by mail applications as of last week. That is four times the number of applications for the 2016 primary.
The increase is likely due in part to health concerns over voting in person at polling stations as states continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. State officials like Gov. Tom Wolf have also encouraged voters to utilize the vote-by-mail system to maintain social distancing measures.
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The lawsuit, filed by Disability Rights Pennsylvania, SeniorLAW and Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Coalition, argue that voters who request absentee ballots before the May 26 deadline could receive them at different times. This means that some voters could have more time than others to fill out and mail back their ballots in time for the June 2 primary. An additional concern is that voters will get their ballots so late that they will feel compelled to deliver them in person to make sure they’re counted, which could increase their risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Voters in Wisconsin experienced this scenario when they had to go to vote in person and were forced to wait in long lines out in the rain.
According to the lawsuit filed by attorneys from the Public Interest Law Center, Pennsylvania residents could get their ballots at different times due to “factors outside their control, such as variation in mail delivery schedules across the commonwealth or application processing by county election boards.”
The plaintiffs are requesting that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allow absentee and mail-in ballots to be counted as long as the voter sends the ballot by June 2 and counties receive it by June 9, which is about a week later than the current rules. As it stands now, voters are expected to return ballots by June 2, 8 p.m.
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