PA tackles unprecedented challenges to hold primary election during coronavirus crisis

Written by on May 5, 2020

PA tackles unprecedented challenges to hold primary election during coronavirus crisis

By Jen Rehill

May 5, 2020

Pennsylvania’s primary election is four weeks from Tuesday, May 5, but many questions remain about how to conduct a “fair and free election” during a pandemic.

Pennsylvania’s holding a hybrid election — with options for mail-in and in-person voting. But the logistics under a state shutdown are unprecedented. For instance, already nearly 1 million residents have applied for mail-in ballots — and with many more expected, Governor Tom Wolf is urging residents to sign up now to avoid bottlenecks. 

“I strongly encourage Pennsylvanians considering voting by mail to apply as soon as possible,” said Wolf.

Mailing ballots in time for the election is just one part of the challenge — they also have to be counted on election night after the polls close. 

Another issue is safety and staffing for in-person voting, as many poll workers are seniors at heightened risk from COVID-19. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar says the national guard may be called in to help out.

“Any guardsman or woman serving as a poll worker would be serving in plain clothes,” said Boockvar.

Even the locations for some polling sites are unknown, given that many sites are shut down. Bookvar says the state can mandate schools to reopen on election day, but doesn’t have that authority over private facilities.


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