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LEHIGH County official explains mail-in voting

The Lehigh County Voters Registration Office Chief Clerk to the Lehigh County Election Board, Timothy Benyo, provided answers to a number of questions voters have regarding this Nov. 3 general election.

Benyo said the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 77 in 2019 that allows for “no excuse mail-in voting.” This means after a voter first completes the application process, the voter will receive an actual ballot in the mail. The voter can vote safely in the quiet of their home.

A record voter turnout is expected Nov. 3. Voters using mail-in voting have the opportunity to avoid long lines, and ensure their safety from COVID-19 infection via a mail-in vote.

Benyo said voter fraud is vanishingly thin in Lehigh County. Benyo noted, “I don’t believe that ballots properly filed, and properly voted” can be fraudulently submitted or counted.

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

Individual “Mail-in voting applications” are available now at the Voters registration office, or at www.votespa.com

The completed mail-in ballot application must be received – by mail, online or personal delivery – by the Voter Registration office by 5 p.m. Oct. 27. Postmarks do not count.

The Lehigh County Voters Registration Office is located in the Lehigh County Government Center, 17 S. 7th Street, Allentown, or online at https://www.votespa.com.

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

Benyo noted if a voter receives an email indicating a mail-in ballot application was declined, it probably is because a duplicate application was filed by the voter.

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

If you question the status of your application, you can call the Voters 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 the voter in late September or early October. The later you file your application, the later you will receive your ballot.

Benyo urged that voters, if they know who they plan to vote for, mail in their ballot to the Voters Registration Office as soon as possible. “Sooner rather than later,” he said.

Voters can check the status of their ballot on www.votespa.com Again, if the voter has any questions about their ballot status, call 610-782-3194.

To be counted in the election, ballots must be returned to the Lehigh County Voters Registration Office by 8 p.m. on 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 which 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. The voter can personally deliver their ballot to the Lehigh County Voter Registration Office at the Lehigh County Government Center, 17 S. Seventh St., Allentown.

As yet to be determined, there may be a drop box outside the entrance of the government center specifically to drop off your mail-in ballot. The drop box, if utilized, will be camera- monitored and lit up 24 hours a day for safety.

If you drop off your ballot at the Voters Registration Office you may be asked for your ID - Pa. Drivers License, PA State ID, or other pictured ID, and documentation of your address. Be prepared to have ID if you choose to go to the Voters Registration Office to submit your ballot.

If you are dropping off another person’s ballot, you may be required to fill out a “Certification of Designated Agent” form. A copy of the form can be downloaded from www.votespa.com

The ballot envelope does not contain any indication of the voter’s party affiliation. All official mail-in ballot envelopes are bar coded, signifying the name and address of the voter. And each voter signs the envelope. This assures no fraudulent ballot can be cast.

If a voter requested a mail-in ballot, but changes their mind and wants to vote at the polls, the voter should bring their mail-in ballot with its return envelope to the polls. The Judge of Election will destroy the unused mail-in ballot and the voter can then vote in person.

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

If a voter encounters any problems voting, they are to call 610-782-3194 immediately.

Our democracy’s cornerstone is the right to vote for all citizens. An informed citizenry is critical to the successful functioning of our nation. All citizens are urged to learn and understand the issues of the day, and to exercise their right to vote. This includes knowing the proper way to vote either in person, or by “mail-in” voting.