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Lehigh County office explains process of voting by mail

The Lehigh County Voter Registration Office has provided some information for those seeking additional details on the process of mail-in voting in the upcoming general election Nov. 3.

According to Timothy Benyo, chief clerk to the Lehigh County Election Board, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed Act 77 in 2019 that allows for “no-excuse mail-in voting.” This means after voters first complete the application process, they will receive an actual ballot in the mail. They can then vote at home.

A record voter turnout is expected this Nov. 3. Voters using mail-in voting have the opportunity to avoid the possibility of long lines at the polls and ensure their safety from potential COVID-19 transmission.

Benyo said voter fraud is vanishingly thin in Lehigh County.

“I don’t believe that ballots properly filed, and properly voted, can be fraudulently submitted or counted,” he said.

Individual mail-in voting applications are available now at votespa.com or the Lehigh County Voter Registration Office, located at Lehigh County Government Center, 17 S. Seventh St., Allentown.

The mail-in ballot application must be received - by mail, online or personal delivery - by the voter registration office by 5 p.m. Oct. 27. Note that postmarks do not count.

Citizens who complete their application for a mail-in ballot on votespa.com will receive emails about their application status. If a paper application was sent in, the application can also be tracked on votespa.com.

Benyo noted if voters receive an email indicating a mail-in ballot application was declined, it probably is because a duplicate application was filed.

Outside groups have sent voters unsolicited applications for mail-in voting that voters may have completed, thereby confusing some who may have then applied more than once.

Those who question the status of an application should call the voter registration office at 610-782-3194 for assistance.

After the application request for a mail-in ballot is processed, the actual ballot will be mailed to voters in late September or early October. The later voters file an application, the later they will receive a ballot.

Benyo appealed that voters who know which candidates they plan to vote for should mail in their ballot to the voters registration office as soon as possible.

“Sooner rather than later,” he stressed.

Voters can check the status of their ballot on votespa.com. Questions on ballot status can be answered by calling 610-782-3194.

To be counted in the election, ballots must be returned to the Lehigh County Voter Registration Office by 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Again, postmarks do not count. The recommendation is for voters to get their mail-in ballot in the mail by Oct. 20.

Mail-in ballots include an envelope that will have postage paid. Voters do not have to place a stamp on the envelope.

The mail-in ballots do not have to be mailed. Voters can personally deliver their ballot to the Lehigh County Voter Registration Office at Lehigh County Government Center, 17 S. Seventh St., Allentown.

The Lehigh County Government Center and the Lehigh County Voter Registration Office will be open for extended hours during a two-week period Oct. 19-30. The building will also be open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 24 and 31 for drop-off.

The extended hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, Oct. 19-30; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 24 and 31; and 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 3.

Reserved parking will be available in front of the government center during these times. Two spots will be accessible on Seventh Street, and two spots will be available on Hamilton Street.

There is a possibility a box may be located outside the entrance of the government center, specifically to drop off the mail-in ballot. The drop box, if utilized, will be camera monitored and illuminated 24 hours a day for safety.

Those who drop off a ballot at the voters registration office may be asked to show a form of identification.

Those dropping off another person’s ballot are required to fill out a certification of designated agent form. A copy of the form can be downloaded at votespa.com.

The ballot envelope does not contain any indication of voters’ party affiliation. All official mail-in ballot envelopes are bar coded to show the name and address of the voter. Each voter signs the envelope. This ensures no fraudulent ballot can be cast.

Voters who requested a mail-in ballot but then decided differently and want to instead vote at the polls should bring the mail-in ballot and return envelope to the polls. The judge of elections will destroy the unused mail-in ballot and allow voters to then vote in person.

Voting twice in Pennsylvania is a felony that carries hefty fines and possible incarceration.

Voters are asked to wear a mask out of respect for the poll workers. Poll workers must wear a mask.

Voters who encounter any problems voting are asked to call 610-782-3194 immediately.