Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Friday moving this year’s Primary Election from April 28 to June 2.
The continuing coronavirus pandemic puts the late-April date nearly impossible to pull off, especially considering the Wolf Administration’s continuing “mitigation” efforts to control spread of the virus.
Locally, about a week before the first coronavirus-positive cases was reported in the state, Schuylkill County was just unloading its new voting machines. Poll workers and election officials haven’t received any sort of training on the machines.
Added to that, this is the first year Pennsylvania voters can opt to mail in a ballot rather than turn to to the polls on Election Day to vote. That created an entirely new variable that election officials had to manage.
And now, with the pandemic creating multiple concerns, more time was clearly needed to pull off a fair Primary election.
Today’s decision does not impact the General Election on November 3.
Pennsylvania Primary Election Moved to June 2 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Senate Bill 422 was signed into law Friday. In addition to moving the election to June 2, the Governor’s signature also makes other provisions that respond to safety concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
For instance, rather than waiting until polls close on Election Day, election officials can now being tabulating mail-in and absentee ballots at the start of the day, 7 a.m.
Further, counties can consolidate polling locations without seeking court approval to do so. Wolf says this is in response to concerns that some poll workers who feel particularly vulnerable to contracting the Chinese virus while working. This could lead to poll worker shortages and under-staffed polling locations.
“Delaying this year’s primary election as several other states have done is in the best interests of voters, poll workers and county election officials,” Wolf says in a statement released Friday. “I commend the General Assembly for acting quickly on this critical legislation. The Department of State will continue to work with local election officials to ensure Pennsylvania has a fair and accessible election.”
215K Pennsylvanians Sought Mail-in Ballots Already
Wolf says more than 215,000 Pennsylvanians have requested a mail-in or absentee ballot already. That ballot is still valid for the June election and voters don’t need to re-apply for the new date.
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SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus in Schuylkill County