Lawmaker Calls for Extended Voting Deadlines for All Pennsylvanians
'I have three different answers on absentee ballots in five counties that I represent,' state Sen. Tim Solobay said.
State Sen. Tim Solobay has called on Gov. Tom Corbett to extend absentee ballot deadlines for all Pennsylvania voters to end the confusion over the street-by-street rules created by this week’s hurricane and subsequent executive orders.
“I have three different answers on absentee ballots in five counties that I represent,” Solobay said. “This has just been a nightmare year for voter confusion and partisan bickering over a fundamental right. We should be doing what we can to make sure every vote is counted.”
Last Saturday, Solobay urged the governor to be flexible with absentee ballot deadlines as convoys of utility workers, heavy machine operators and volunteers left southwestern Pennsylvania for areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
The governor subsequently issued a pair of executive orders extending absentee ballot application and filing deadlines, but only for voters in counties where the local election office was closed during the storm.
“I’m glad the governor gave some voters more time, but street-by-street voting rules don't make sense,” Solobay said. “If this election is as close as experts are saying it will be, we could be the next state in front of the Supreme Court.”
The original deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the Nov. 6 election was Tuesday, Oct. 29. Gov.
Corbett's first order extended that deadline for voters in counties where election offices were closed at any point this week. A subsequent executive order extended Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline for returning those ballots until Monday at 5 p.m. in those same counties.
Beaver County voters will have the extra time. Voters in Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties will not.
Adding to the confusion is an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas ruling ordering the county to accept absentee ballots until the end of the day on Election Day. Those ballots received after 5 p.m. on Friday will be sequestered to allow for a possible appeal of the ruling
However, the governor’s second order and an Allegheny County appeal cannot alter Tuesday’s deadline regarding the counting of absentee ballots for the office of president and vice-president.
Federal law requires that anyone who has an absentee ballot will have it counted for the offices of president and vice president if it is received by local election officials by the end of the day Tuesday.
Solobay, D-Canonsburg, noted that state transportation officials announced today they will extend statewide driver license and vehicle registrations because of the storm. That extension applies to all counties.
Voters who had planned to vote in person on Election Day, but find out after the absentee ballot deadline that they will not be able to make it to the polls, can apply for an Emergency Absentee Ballot.
Emergency absentee ballot applications can be downloaded from the state’s voter website and must be filled out in the presence of a notary public and delivered to the county elections office before Friday at 5 p.m.
Voters who experience an emergency or find out after Friday at 5 p.m. that they will be absent from their voting precinct can apply to the county court for an Emergency Absentee Ballot. Anyone who is not able to apply to the court can designate someone to file the application for them
If a voter is not able to appear in court or obtain assistance from an authorized representative, the judge will direct a deputy sheriff of the county to deliver the absentee ballot if the voter is at a physical location within the county.