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Pennsylvania to Delay Primary Election

by on March 25, 2020 5:36 PM

The Pennsylvania House and Senate voted to delay the state's primary election by five weeks, the latest in a series of statewide efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf said earlier in the day that he would sign the bill once it was passed.

Primary day will now be pushed back from the original date of April 28 to June 2. As cases of COVID-19 continue to grow in the commonwealth, the rescheduled date could come after the virus has peaked and the state is potentially past an expected surge. Pennsylvania had more than 1,100 cases and 11 deaths from the illness as of Wednesday.

The bill also allows county election officials to relocate or consolidate polling places because of a potential shortfall in volunteers or available venues. Some polling sites are located in places such as senior centers and schools that may not be open or may be susceptible to outbreaks

Volunteers also may be drawn from anywhere within the county where previously they could only volunteer within their own precinct. 

Election offices also will be allowed to process absentee and mail-in ballots at 7 a.m. on election day rather than after polls close. Mail-in voting was made available to Pennsylvania voters late last year. Allowing election officials to begin the counts earlier will ensure results can be reported earlier. Mail-in and absentee ballot results cannot be published or officially recorded until after polls close.

Some Democrats had pushed for mail-in ballots to be sent to every registered voter, but that was not included in the bill.

"If the pandemic doesn’t slow down and the curve isn’t flattened, we’ll need to act again. We already have trouble finding folks to work the polls, and this crisis will only make that more difficult," state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, said. "Vote-by-mail ensures every voter can have their voice heard without further risk to themselves or others around them.”

Ten other states and territories have moved their primary elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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