Voter registration in Pennsylvania has likely set records, election officials said Wednesday, and requests for mail-in ballots ahead of the general election have already exceeded total mail-in voting in the primary. The state also announced plans to counteract efforts to claim victory on Election Night before the mail-in ballots are counted.
"We think that our total voter registration may be at an all-time high,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar in an update with the press Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, 9,908,777 people are registered to vote in Pennsylvania: 4,175,532 Democrats, 3,459,627 Republicans, and 875,191 of other parties or no affiliation. Boockvar said nearly 2.5 million people have already requested mail-in ballots, the overwhelming majority of those requests coming from Democrats. By Wednesday, 1,628,401 Democrats had requested ballots, compared with 600,487 Republicans and 259,480 voters of other parties.
“Just as a reminder, we had nearly 1.5 million vote in the primary by mail,” Boockvar said. “So we already have a million more applications than those that voted by mail in the primary.”
While voters could request mail-in ballots months before the November election, counties can only begin mailing out ballots 50 days before the election. Officials often have to wait longer for court challenges to be resolved before ballots can be printed.
Boockvar assured voters who are waiting on their mail-in ballots that they should receive them soon. She said 96 percent of the 2.5 million applications received have been approved and processed, and those ballots are either “already in the mail or about to be mailed.”
Boockvar also gave updates on the many election-related legal challenges in Pennsylvania.
In one such case, the Department of State asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots postmarked on or before November 3 by three days. Boockvar said the state has filed a King’s Bench petition – an unusual move which asks the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to weigh in on any pending court case, or even address issues not in the courts but which are of “immediate public importance.”
The department also filed a King’s Bench petition asking the state’s highest court for a ruling that ballots can’t be rejected over signatures that have varied over time.
Boockvar also announced that the department is working on a new website that will take some of the guesswork out of the longer ballot-counting process officials expect will take place on Election Night and in the days after.
There are no requirements about when counties must begin tallying mail ballots on Election Day, and some won’t begin doing so until the day after the election. But because Republicans prefer voting in person and Democrats prefer voting by mail this year, many expect initial results to favor Republicans. The new website will provide detailed, county-by-county breakdowns, prompting fears that the GOP may declare victory while the results are still in doubt.
Boockvar said the state will provide information to make clear how much farther the counting process has to go. “You’ll be able to track what’s left on the mail-in and absentee front parallel to seeing what’s coming in on the in-person,” she said.
The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 19, and the deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27. Even say, officials say voters should request and return their ballots as soon as possible.