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Officials Say Voters Should Drop Off Ballots In Person, Not Mail Them

Matt Slocum
Ballots for the 2020 General Election in the United States are seen at Philadelphia's mail-in ballot sorting and counting center, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania’s top election official said Wednesday that voters who have not returned their mail-in ballots yet should now drop them off in person.
“At this point we are not recommending that anybody put their ballots in the mail,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar.

The U.S. Postal Service has said it could take about a week to return ballots by mail, so ballots mailed now may not be received in time. Boockvar said if voters can’t get to their county elections office to return their ballots in person, they could overnight the ballots instead.

Voters in Allegheny County can drop their ballots off in the lobby of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue Downtown between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. from now until Monday. You can also drop off your ballot there on Election Day between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Election officials also have a word of caution for voters that are planning to surrender their mail-in ballots on Election Day so they can vote in person instead. Some voters think that will help their vote be tallied more quickly, but officials say doing so could actually create more problems.

Election data shows the vast majority of mail-in ballots are being cast by Democrats, while Republicans seem likelier to vote in person. It takes longer to open and scan mail-in ballots, and some Pennsylvanians worry that initial election results may falsely show Donald Trump ahead while Democratic votes are still being counted.

Election officials say that the process of handing over a mail-in ballot to vote in person – called spoiling – will take time. And if a lot of voters do so, lines will likely be longer and the results from polling places could be delayed.

“I urge any voter [to] just complete the vote that they actually requested and drop it off in person,” said Boockvar. “Drop off, drop off, drop off. If you can’t drop it off and it’s a question of mailing it in or going in person on Election Day, absolutely go in person on Election Day: Bring it with you, surrender it, vote on the regular machines.”

More than 3 million Pennsylvanians requested to vote by mail in the general election, according to the latest numbers from the Department of State. Nearly 2 million have been completed and returned to county election officials.