CLEARFIELD – In Pennsylvania, though there are only two options for mail ballots, it can still be confusing.
During Tuesday’s Clearfield County Commissioners’ workshop meeting, Election Director Dawn Graham provided clarity with hopes of eliminating some confusion locally.
First, she said any registered voter may apply for a mail-in ballot. They may simply request this ballot without a reason or medical excuse.
Second, registered voters may vote by absentee ballot if they plan to be out of the municipality Election Day, or if they have a disability or illness that prevents them from going to their polling place on Election Day.
However, an absentee ballot requires registered voters to provide a reason for their ballot, Graham said, while a mail-in ballot does not.
Voters must apply every year to receive mail-in ballots, Graham said, unless they are placed on the annual list; then, the board of elections will mail an annual application to them in February of each year.
They must then complete and return that application to receive ballots for each election in which they are eligible to vote that year.
Additionally, Graham said permanent absentee ballot applications are an option for registered voters who suffer from a permanent illness or disability that causes them to be unable to visit their polling place and vote.
Permanent absentee ballot applicants must attain the certification of their attending physician that they are permanently disabled, and physically unable to attend the polls and vote.
An absentee ballot application will be mailed to permanent absentee voters for each primary or general election as long as they are eligible to vote, Graham said.
Permanent absentee voters are not required to file a physician’s certificate of disability with each application for an absentee ballot.
But they must submit a written statement asserting continuing disability every four years in order to maintain their eligibility to vote under the permanent absentee program.
If a permanent absentee voter should lose their disability, they must inform the county board of elections.
Graham said most of the confusion occurs because registered voters overthink the questions asked when they request a mail application online, and end up completing the wrong application.
For example, if a permanent absentee voter would complete a regular mail-in application, they would be removed from the county’s permanent absentee voter listing.
As a result, they wouldn’t receive their annual application in February, and may not realize further action is needed on their part.
When requesting a mail ballot application online, most registered voters should be answering no to the series of questions and ultimately requesting and completing a mail-in ballot application, said Commissioner Dave Glass.
“When in doubt, just answer ‘no,’” he said, with Graham encouraging any registered voter with questions or concerns to contact the election office by phone at 814-765-2642, Ext. 5053, or e-mail at email@example.com.
“It’s much easier to help you now, than to fix it later,” Graham said, adding she understands the process is “so very confusing” and wishes state legislators would simplify it by having one mail ballot option.