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Furloughed York County workers help with 40K mail-in ballot requests

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Eight of York County's 277 furloughed employees have returned full time to help the Department of Elections and Voter Registration process the deluge of mail-in ballot applications for the June 2 primary.

More than 14% of registered voters in York County had requested mail-in ballots as of Tuesday, the statewide deadline to apply, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

"We have people all over the building helping," said Sally Kohlbus, assistant director of the county elections office, who added that the atmosphere at the office Tuesday was "insane."

Several other county personnel are volunteering their time to help with the ballots, said county spokesperson Mark Walters, and the additional staff will be working June 2 to help scan the mail-in ballots at the elections office.

Tuesday was the last day voters could request a mail-in ballot ahead of next week's primary.

The staff will have four scanners to tabulate more than 40,000 mail-in ballots, and they're allowed to begin scanning when the polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Temporary elections worker Jon DeHoff works at the elections office Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Tuesday is the last day for voters to submit applications for mail-in ballots before the next week's primary. The elections department is using staff from other offices in the county administration building to help process the applications. Bill Kalina photo

Hiccups: The vote-by-mail process hasn't been smooth sailing for every voter who applied.

Steve Ulrich, director of the county's elections office, said recently that the state's delay in certifying the ballots meant the county had to wait to send the ballots to the printer, and by extension, to the voter.

This slowed down the process for voters who were erroneously told by the state's automated notification system that they should have received their ballots already.

Voters who haven't received their ballot by June 2 should go to their polling place and cast a provisional ballot, Walters said.

Voters who cast a provisional ballot because of an issue with receiving their mail-in ballot, can rest assured their vote will be counted, he said.

State and local officials urged voters who wanted to vote by mail in recent weeks not to wait until the last minute to apply.

"We do know that certainly, once it leaves our hands, we’re depending on the postal service to make sure it gets where it needs to go," Ulrich has said.

Ulrich was not available to comment Tuesday.

Elections Director Steve Ulrich at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

All mail-in ballots must be in the county's possession by 8 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls close.

Ballots can returned in the mail or dropped off in person at the elections office in the York County Administrative Center, 28 E. Market St. in York City.

Voting by mail became a viable option for all Pennsylvania voters last year when Gov. Tom Wolf signed the Act 77 election reform bill into law.

As of Tuesday, more than 1.8 million voters statewide had requested mail-in ballots for the primary, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

More:State officials: Don't wait to apply for June 2 primary mail-in ballot

More:York County Dems outpace GOP voters for mail-in ballot applications