OP-ED: Voting by mail is no longer the exception

State Sen. Wayne Fontana
42nd District
FILE - In this March 10, 2020, file photo wearing gloves, a King County Election worker collect ballots from a drop box in the Washington State primary, in Seattle. But the 2020 presidential election is creeping ever closer, and there are no signs yet of pandemic abating, nor any word on when Americans on orders to stay home can resume normal life, and so lawmakers are trying to figure how to allow for voting in a world where face-to-face contact causes anxiety at the least, and sickness and death at the most. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)

As this frightening pandemic affects every facet of our lives, more and more citizens are doing what they can to keep safe by staying at home, practicing social distancing and keeping in touch with others as remotely as possible.

We cannot be sure when this nightmare will end, or when we can return to living our normal lives. Some project it will be weeks. Others have argued that it may take months or longer. Many medical experts have even warned that a second wave of COVID-19 may target us when the weather cools this autumn.

While casting one’s vote in the upcoming primary or general elections is hardly at the top of anyone’s priority list right now, it’s still an important civic duty in which we all should engage. I am encouraged by steps Gov. Tom Wolf and those of us in the General Assembly have taken to accommodate and assure full access to voters.

To that end, we recently enacted legislation that will delay the April 28 primary election until June 2. Just as importantly, a legislative package I co-sponsored was enacted last year to empower citizens to vote by mail.

Under the new law, people can now register, apply for a ballot and vote without leaving home.

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State Sen. Wayne Fontana

If citizens are concerned about how dangerous it will be to venture out to the polls in June, they can completely avoid that risk by mail-in voting. The process is simple, easy, safe and accommodating.

I also should emphasize that mail-in voters no longer need to provide any excuse about being ill or absent from the county on election day. The days of county elections officials making subjective judgments about someone’s malady or inability to make it to the polls are over.

Voting by mail is easy, gives you days to look over your ballot and enables you to toss your ballot into the outgoing mail days before the election — at your convenience. If you change your mind by election day, you still have every right to show up at the polls and supplant the ballot you mailed in.

Your vote is your voice. Ranging from the presidency to the state legislature, there are many significant government offices on the ballot this year. Take advantage of this new option to vote by mail.

With so much uncertainty swirling around this coronavirus, it’s also important to note that depending on the status of the pandemic as we draw closer to June or November, voting by mail could be your only option.

If you want to skip the hassles of voting in person, you can apply for a mail-in ballot at this link:

Please keep in mind that you must apply for your mail-in ballot by May 26. If you do not have computer access, you can call or write a letter requesting a mail-in ballot from your county election office.

— State Sen. Wayne Fontana is a Democratic from Allegheny representing the 42 District.