Election officials in Butler County, Pennsylvania, said Wednesday that many voters have not yet received their requested mail-in ballots, with only five days left until election day.
Although election officials told local media that they believe the problem lies in delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, the USPS told Tekk.tv that its top priority is the prompt delivery of campaign mail, and said it was unaware of the “significant” delivery problems in Butler County.
“As for the sorting and delivery of mail in Butler County, the postal service is not aware of any significant delays or problems and is in regular contact with the Elections Committee as we work to locate and deliver ballots as they are presented to us,” the USPS said.
The director of the district election office, Aaron Sheasely, raised the issue of the requested ballots during a meeting with the district commissioners on Wednesday, butler Eagle said. Sheasely told commissioners that the number of voters affected was unknown, but Commissioner Leslie Osche told Spotlight PA there could be thousands.
The last day voters in Pennsylvania could request postal ballots was Tuesday. All postal ballots must either be postmarked or submitted to the voting officials by 8:00 p.m. local time on election day.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, more voters than ever before are expected to vote by mail in this election. In Pennsylvania, more than 2.1 million voters have already returned their ballots by mail, according to the U.S. Elections Project. On the project’s map, Butler appears as the district with the fewest returned postal ballots to date, with nearly one-fourth of the requested ballots having been returned to the election workers by Thursday. At least half of the absentee voters in all other 66 counties in the state had returned their ballots by Thursday, according to the project’s data.
Osche told KDKA-TV that the district officials initially thought that the delivery of the ballots had simply been delayed. “That could still be the case,” she said. But as election day approached, the district officials began to alert voters that they might have to make alternative plans to the election.
“We changed our strategy and now we started telling people that if they didn’t get a ballot, they still have multiple options,” Osche said. These options include handing in a provisional ballot on November 3 at the voter’s assigned polling station or visiting the polling station directly, the polling station said.
In a statement to Tekk.tv, the County of Butler Board of Commissioners said that election officials received “thousands” of phone calls and e-mails from voters who had not yet received their ballots.
“Over the past week and a half, the polling office has received thousands of phone calls and e-mails from voters who said they had not received their ballots by mail or in absentia. The Post Office is in daily contact with our polling station and is aware of the situation,” the commissioners said.
The committee of commissioners said it could confirm that the polling station had sent out about 40,000 ballots and that almost 21,300 had been returned either by mail or by personal delivery. “Butler County is now focusing primarily on providing voters who may not have received a ballot with several ways to obtain and vote, and recording the returned ballots so that voters can see that their ballot has been received on the votespa.com website,” the statement said.
The Board expects to complete scanning to display the receipted ballots within the next 48 hours, the statement said.
The statement went on to encourage voters who have not yet received their postal ballots to visit the district polling station in person or to go to their designated polling station to vote. Those who prefer to vote by mail can still do so by contacting the district officials to have a replacement ballot sent to them or to have it delivered directly by a local deputy, the commissioners said.
Tekk.tv turned to the Butler County Bureau of Elections for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Bookvar’s office told Tekk.tv that she would be briefing Tekk.tv on the state of the election throughout the state during a press conference scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon.