How voting in Pennsylvania is affected by the pandemic

Written By Hayley Farrell

Every four years the residents of Pennsylvania gear up for the next Presidential election. Citizens gather at voting centers eager to cast their votes and experience the excitement that comes with sharing their opinion.

The Secretary of Pennsylvania, Kathy Boockvar released a statement in late March explaining that the 2020 primary election would be postponed until June 2nd due to the concern surrounding COVID-19. However, Boockvar reminded residents that they are able to register for mail-in ballots if they wish to avoid going to the polls.

Mail-in ballots can be applied for online. The deadline for the county election office to receive these voted ballots is June 2nd at 8 p.m. The department of health is providing guidelines to follow that ensure the safety of voters who choose to go to the polls. Machines will be sanitized and supplies will be accessible to wash hands and clean tables, according to Boockvar.

The Pa. government website states that to date over 20,000 people have registered for mail in ballots. While an estimated 45,000 people have requested an absentee ballot. Mail-in ballots are for voters who wish to vote by mail. Absentee ballots are for those who will be away from the municipality or have a disability that requires an absentee vote. Absentee voters must provide a valid reason to receive this type of ballot.

Voters are anticipating the primaries and focusing on how they will be able to cast votes during this time of quarantine. Some of them are relieved by the opportunity to vote via the mail.

Edward Alberts of Crafton is a 25-year-old registered voter in Pennsylvania. He is passionate about his political views and always takes voting seriously. He has been social distancing and does not wish to go to the voting polls.

“I feel like mail voting is a great idea,” Alberts said. “I do not want to go anywhere near the polls because so many people touch them. I can’t imagine going there being a smart [idea] at all, even if I wear gloves. I am a democrat and the primary is so important this year, I already applied to vote by mail.”

Point Park students are supportive of the mail-in ballots because it creates safety and efficiency during this crisis.

Mariah Malloy, 20, is a third-year journalism major at Point Park and feels that voting online would be the easiest option provided that is accessible.

“This is all definitely a less exciting process, but voting is important and it needs to be done no matter what, so I guess mail voting is the best thing to do,” Malloy said.

Malloy also said that mail-in voting should be made available in all states due to the risk factor of COVID-19.

“If we are able to leave our house to vote we should be able to hang out with friends,” Malloy said. “It is a double standard. It is either safe or not safe to be in large public places.”

Other voters are concerned by the requirements and deadlines involved in applying for mail-in voting. Some of them may not make the deadline due to identification requirements.

Harry Orville of Bridgeville is a 70-year-old registered democratic voter in Pennsylvania. He was planning to vote by mail because he has several pre-existing medical conditions that put him further at risk for COVID-19 than others.

“I absolutely cannot leave my house,” Orville said. “I had heart surgery in 2014 and I had cancer removed in 2016. I need to take care of my health. I also have COPD. I can’t even go to the store let alone a voting poll. My wife does all of the running around that is essential. I have been confined to my living room.”

According to Orville, his current driver’s license has expired. The application for the mail-in ballot requires a valid Pennsylvania Identification card. With all of the DMVs closed, Orville is unable to renew his license.

“I don’t think I am going to be able to cast my vote this year,” Orville said. “With everything going on it is too complicated for someone like me.”

Elderly voters have to be more careful if they choose to go out into the public to vote. Some voters find it more convenient to cast their ballot by mail.

Deborah Daloscio of McKees Rocks is a 60-year-old registered voter who is confined to her house during the quarantine because she had major neck surgery last June.

“I cannot afford to get sick, my immune system is already compromised,” Daloscio said. “I will be able to vote by mail which is easier for me anyways. I don’t have a car to get to the polls. Voting through the mail would be easier for me even without the pandemic.”

Voters are both encouraged and set back by the option to vote by mail. The elderly are more inclined to vote through the mail to ensure their own safety from COVID-19, provided that they have the required documentation. Pennsylvania is granting residents a choice of whether or not to vote physically at the polls or privately through the mail.

Voters are concerned for their health and many of them feel more comfortable voting privately in their own home. Orville said that the incident in Wisconsin is “despicable” and he believes there are other motives behind it.

“People in Wisconsin were forced to go outside and vote in public,” Orville said. “These are the primaries to choose the democratic candidate. It is so important and the republicans are trying to suppress the vote because they know that people are scared to leave home.”