The Bucks County Board of Elections will provide the use of three guarded ballot boxes in the coming days to accommodate voters concerned that their mail-in ballots may be returned too late to be counted.
The move was prompted by statewide reports that surges in mail-in ballot requests, coupled with postal service delays, could leave too little time for some voters to return their ballots by the deadline to be counted for the June 2 presidential primary.
Ballot boxes will be situated in Doylestown, Levittown and Quakertown from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The boxes will be placed outside these county buildings:
- The Lower Bucks Government Services Center, 7321 New Falls Road, Levittown
- The Bucks County Administration Building, 55 E. Court St., Doylestown
- The Upper Bucks Government Services Center, 261 California Road, Quakertown
Bucks County Sheriff’s Deputies will guard the boxes placed in Levittown and Quakertown, while Bucks County Security Officers will guard the box in Doylestown. The mail-slotted lids of the boxes will be padlocked shut, and the boxes will not be left unattended at any time.
Under state election law, voters are only permitted to place their own ballots in the boxes, and cannot bring ballots for relatives, friends or others. At 7 p.m. each day, the boxes will be removed by the deputies or officers and returned to the Board of Elections office, where the boxes will be unlocked and the ballots removed and secured.
County elections officials throughout Pennsylvania have struggled to manage this year’s unanticipated influx of mail-in ballot requests. This year’s primary is the first election in which Pennsylvania voters are allowed to cast ballots by mail without providing a reason for doing so.
And while elections officials anticipated a spike in mail-in voting to result from the change in the law, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting urging of public officials for people to vote by mail as a health precaution, have resulted in a larger-than-expected flood of such requests.
As of mid-day today, Bucks County officials had 98,968 requests for mail-in or absentee ballots. By comparison, only about 6,000 voters cast absentee ballots in Bucks County’s last presidential primary in 2016.
The volume has left election workers here, as in other counties, laboring long hours, weekends and holidays to process the thousands of applications and to send the ballots to voters. Even so, the uncertainties of mail delivery times have left a short window between the May 26 deadline for applications to be received and the 8 p.m. June 2 deadline for completed ballots to be received by the Board of Elections.
The ballot boxes are designed for voters who are worried that they may be mailing their ballots too late to be received by the June 2 deadline.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created anxieties for those planning to vote in person, and for those who will work the polls. Bucks County continues to solicit members of the public to help work the polls after a number of pollworkers, especially those who are older and more vulnerable to coronavirus, stepped aside because of health concerns.
In recognition of the unusual circumstances, the Board of Elections has increased pollworker pay this year to the maximum rate of $195 per full day ($200 for Judges of Election) and $97.50 per half-day. Anyone wishing to work at one of Bucks County’s 200 polling locations on June 2 is asked to call 215-348-6154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bucks County Emergency Services workers will be disinfecting all polling places in the days leading up to the primary with a special sanitizing spray, and again after the voting concludes.
Emergency Services also purchased ample supplies of personal protective equipment for poll workers, including gloves, hand sanitizer, high-grade disinfectant wipes, masks and face shields, painters’ tape to mark floors at six-food increments to enforce social distancing, Plexiglas dividers to separate workers from voters, extra pens for marking ballots and microfiber cloths to wipe down voting machine screens.
In addition, the Bucks County Health Department has ordered that all voters be required to wear a face covering while inside polling places. Anyone refusing to wear a face covering will not be denied the right to vote, but will be instructed to wait outside the polling place while others vote safely inside, and will be offered a provisional ballot to be completed in the presence of a poll worker.
If the voter refuses to wear a face covering or to complete a provisional ballot, he or she must wait until poll workers can make arrangements inside for the person to vote alone with minimal or no contact with other voters and poll workers. The voter will be advised that making these arrangements could cause a significant delay in his or her ability to vote.