Pennsylvania Rejects 372,000 Mail-in Ballot Applications, as Voters Err

Pennsylvania Rejects 372,000 Mail-in Ballot Applications, as Voters Err
Mail-in primary election ballots are processed at the Chester County Voter Services office in West Chester, Pa., on May 28, 2020. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)
Matthew Vadum

The presidential election battleground state of Pennsylvania has rejected 372,000 requests for mail-in ballots, a development that is causing confusion among election officials and the voting public.

Pennsylvania is among the most hotly contested states for the Nov. 3 presidential election. President Donald Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2016 by 44,292 votes out of more than 6 million cast. The Republican candidate secured 48.2 percent of the popular vote in the state, beating Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won 47.5 percent, according to Ballotpedia.

Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to be elected president.

Voting-by-mail, whether by absentee ballot or by the military overseas, has been around for many years, but the current pandemic has made it a significantly more popular means for discharging one’s democratic duty. It allows the voter to take action without risking exposure to the CCP virus that causes the disease COVID-19 by attending a polling place in person.

The revelation of the rejected ballot applications highlights the reportedly widespread public anxiety about using the U.S. Postal Service as a primary means of conducting elections in the country, something that has never been attempted before.

It also highlights the difficulties in switching from largely voting in person to voting by mail, without sufficient time allowed to educate the public about how to complete the sometimes confusing mail-in balloting paperwork properly.

Pennsylvania officials blame the denials largely on duplicate requests initiated by voters who recently applied for mail-in ballots without knowing that they had already applied for the ballots during the June primary elections.

Specifically, upward of 90 percent of the applications were thrown out as duplicates, primarily because voters who had applied for mail-in ballots for the June 2 state primary didn’t remember they had already checked a box to be sent ballots for the general election as well, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, threw out more than 49,000 duplicate ballot requests from the June primary to October. Armstrong County has turned back 25 percent of 5,400 applications as duplicates. Chester County, near Philadelphia, has completed processing 113,000 applications, only to find 1 in 5 was duplicative. Montgomery County has rejected 32,000 or 18 percent of applications, as duplicates.

Philadelphia has thrown out almost 49,000 duplicate applications.

“Workers must handle every application individually. We basically have to treat them all the same,” Bill Turner, acting elections director for Chester County, told the Inquirer. “We’re taking a tremendous amount of staff time and effort, only to find out it’s a duplicate.”

Some election administrators blame activist groups for trying to mobilize voters for the confusion.

Nonprofit organizations have overwhelmed the state’s voters with mail-in ballot applications, which has led to a large volume of duplicate requests.

Such groups have created “confusion for voters and the likelihood that voters will not realize their application has been processed and they don’t need to submit another one,” the Pennsylvania Department of State told the newspaper, adding that “some voters may have forgotten that they opted to be put on the annual mail ballot list when they applied for a ballot for the June primary.”

The department said that “depending on when and how the counties update the ballot and mailing information” in the state systems, “the mail-in ballot tracker on” the state website “may not reflect precise information.”

The department said it is reaching out to counties to make sure voters receive correct information: “As more ballots are mailed in the coming days and weeks, the tracker will more accurately reflect each county’s activity and the status of individual voters’ ballots.”

“The volume of calls we have been getting has been overwhelming,” Marybeth Kuznik, elections director in Armstrong County, told the media outlet. “It has been almost like a denial of service attack at times because it seemed that sometimes all I could get done was answer the phone!”