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Blair, Cambria voters won’t see drop-off ballot boxes

As Pennsylvania counties get ready for the Nov. 3 election, don’t expect to see unsupervised ballot drop-off boxes pop up in Blair or Cambria counties.

Both counties have already alerted local residents through website postings that the option won’t be available for the forthcoming hotly contested presidential race between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democrat challenger Joe Biden.

“If you choose to vote by mail, you must return your ballot by mail or by personally dropping the ballot off at the voter registration office located in the courthouse,” Blair County advises voters on its website.

One other option for Blair County’s last-minute voters will be to present their completed ballots on Nov. 3 at a drop-off location next to the courthouse’s Union Street entrance. That’s where a representative of the elections office will be stationed to collect ballots.

“We did that in the primary because the courthouse is closed on Election Day,” Director of Elections Sarah Seymour said. “And people used it.”

Interest in ballot drop-off boxes, an option long used in states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado, started climbing after the U.S. Postal Service began warning states that it couldn’t guarantee all mailed ballots would be received in time to be counted.

In Pennsylvania, however, most voters won’t have the option. In June, the Trump re-election campaign sued the state’s election leaders and managers, claiming unmanned ballot drop boxes create security and legal concerns.

To give the state courts a chance to weigh in and interpret relevant state statutes, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Ranjan put the lawsuit on hold through October.

Meanwhile, Delaware County in eastern Pennsylvania is moving ahead with plans to purchase 50 ballot drop boxes and have them installed by Oct. 1 for voters.

“We are gambling a little bit,” Delaware County Council member Christine Reuther told the Huffington Post. “I think our lawyers feel pretty confident about the lawsuit.”

Centre County also intends to offer a ballot drop box for its voters, leaders in that county confirmed this week. It’s located outside the main entrance to the Willowbank Building in Bellefonte, where the county’s elections office is headquartered. It’s also monitored round the clock by video surveillance.

“We put a lot of thought into finding a good placement for it, making sure it was secure,” Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem told the Centre Daily Times.

In the primary, Seymour praised local post offices for their extra pick-up and delivery efforts that helped Blair County’s 10,000 mailed ballots arrive in time to be counted. For voters with concerns about mailed ballots arriving on time, she and her staff have another suggestion: “We suggest they mail their ballots as early as possible.”

Blair County expects to mail ballots to voters in late September. They will be sent to voters who, for the primary, requested a mailed ballot, and to voters making their first request for a mailed ballot.

The state currently requires counties to mail ballots to voters no later than 14 days before the election but lawmakers are considering changing that to 28 days, thereby giving voters more time to receive and return their ballots.

For those intending to vote in person in November, Seymore said current plans call for staffing 93 precincts. For the June 2 primary and in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the county consolidated several precincts and voting locations.

“It was a lot of work for some of the poll workers trying to run two precincts,” Seymour said.

Anyone who wants to staff a voting precinct on election day should contact the county election office for information about the requirements and pay.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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