Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Allegheny County prepares for primary, Board of Elections gives update on ballot return

Thousands of people are expected to participate in this election by mail — an option available to all voters for any reason since 2020.
Matt Smith
Spotlight PA
Thousands of people are expected to participate in this election by mail — an option available to all voters for any reason since 2020.

Systems are running smoothly at new ballot return sites, Allegheny County officials said at a Board of Elections meeting Monday. And county election workers are trying to help voters avoid a mail-in voting pitfall that could snare hundreds of residents.

Election officials hailed the launch of a program, initiated by County Executive Sara Innamorato, to open up staffed drop-off locations for mail-in ballots in the weekends prior to the April 23 primary. Nearly 1,000 ballots were returned by residents to the six locations scattered around the county.

“The bottom line is, from the reports that I got back from observers, they were very happy and pleased with the professionalism and the hard work of the elections employees,” said board member Sam DeMarco, who chairs the Republican Committee of Allegheny County.

DeMarco and Innamorato had disagreed sharply over the plan, largely because Innamorato initially sought to open the drop-off centers on her own authority, rather than through action by the board — whose members include herself, DeMarco, and county councilor Bethany Hallam. After days of controversy and a brief legal fight, the Board unanimously approved a plan to open the centers.

The satellite locations will be open next Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and on Sunday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters are only permitted to return their own ballot, or must complete an authorization form to turn in a ballot for someone who is physically unable to do so.

County officials said they had lined up adequate staffing for polling places on the April 23 primary itself. And they have been preparing in other ways, including notifying voters by mail of changes to voting place locations in 62 precincts. Of those, 16 had to be relocated because they are housed in Jewish community centers or houses of worship: This year’s primary falls during the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Election workers are also working to ensure voters don't stumble over mail-in ballot requirements. Over 650 voters have sent mail-in ballots with no date on the outside envelope in which the ballot is enclosed. A federal appeals court ruled last month that such ballots won't count. But local election workers reach out to voters in hopes of resolving such issues, and 170 votes have been corrected already.

David Voye, the manager of the county’s Division of Elections, said that Democrats have requested over 98,000 ballots as of Monday — more than four times the number sought by Republicans. That continues a longstanding trend in which Democrats are far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans.

Voye added that the county has added 5,000 new registered voters since last November, bringing the total up to 905,000. He attributed the increase to the new automatic voter registration at Pennsylvania driver’s license centers.

The deadline to apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot for the primary election is April 16. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Primary Day, April 23.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at