‘Added Confusion And Chaos’: Pennsylvania’s Latest Mail-In Voting Decision Has Local Officials Scrambling

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A voter marks a ballot during primary elections at a Wyandotte County polling station

‘Added Confusion And Chaos’: Pennsylvania’s Latest Mail-In Voting Decision Has Local Officials Scrambling

Trevor Schakohl on August 30, 2022

Pennsylvania authorities contentiously combined voter registration and mail-in ballot applications into one document this month, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the latest in a series of disputed election-related policies.

The state’s Department of State issued an updated form Aug. 19 allowing citizens to register to vote and request a mail-in ballot, which had previously required multiple forms, The Federalist reported. Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Elections and Commissions Jonathan Marks said this was intended “to simplify the process,” but many county elections officials argued the change occurred without warning and demonstrated a continuing lack of respect for them, according to the Inquirer.

“This is all kinds of added confusion and chaos, and it’s not going to go well for the voters, because they’re going to be frustrated,” Dauphin County Elections Director Jerry Feaser said, the outlet reported. Lycoming County Elections Director Forrest Lehman called it “so exhausting to try to protect voters from elected officials and advocacy groups who just want to screw with them.”

“I think intentions were good, but we are anticipating lots of voter confusion and an equal amount of headaches for us,” Montour County Chief Clerk Holly Brandon told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “If the thought was to streamline the process, it will be anything but on our end.”

The form forces election officials to process the voter’s registration first and copy the mail-in ballot request for filing, according to The Federalist. Pennsylvania county officials expressed concern that the update could make opportunities for legal action, the Inquirer reported.

Bucks County Elections Director Thomas Freitag sent the Department of State a letter on July 29, The Federalist reported. He claimed county officials’ general opposition was “so resounding that a workgroup was formed to provide meaningful feedback to the State.”

Freitag begged the Department of State not to implement the form until after the Nov. 8 election, arguing, “This will allow counties time to partner with the Department of State to make necessary changes without fundamentally altering our election process.”

Pennsylvania is a familiar site for election controversy. A state court in January struck down the state’s 2019 Act 77 that permitted no-excuse mail-in voting, created a permanent mail-in voting roll, ended straight-ticket voting and instituted a shorter 15-day voter registration deadline.

In the 2020 election, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that ballots could be received three days after Election Day, and Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt struck down Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar’s subsequent declaration that ballots could have identification added up to six days after the ballot acceptance deadline. Current Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz’s primary opponent David McCormick sued in May in an effort to have mail-in ballots in their contest counted even if their envelopes lacked the state-mandated handwritten dating.

The Pennsylvania Department of State did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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