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County officials cite difficulty of finding poll workers for June 2 primary
(Allegheny County illustration)
All Allegheny County voters will have the option of casting a ballot by mail in the June 2 primary election.
County officials on Friday announced that all registered voters will receive an application for a mail-in ballot, as well as a postage-paid envelope. Registered voters also may apply for a mail-in ballot online at alleghenyvotes.com, if they have not already requested an absentee ballot.
A spokeswoman said the county is having difficulty finding enough workers to staff polling stations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Allegheny County has 1,323 polling places, which require five poll workers per location, said Amie M. Downs, county spokeswoman.
Many of the poll workers are senior citizens and the bulk of them have either said they will not be available to work at the polls, or have expressed concerns about their health and safety, she said.
In addition, many polling locations are located in schools, churches and senior citizen residences, and representatives have expressed concerns about opening their buildings to the public, Downs said.
“Last month it became clear that we would not be able to conduct a typical election,” County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Friday in a prepared statement. “I asked the county manager to begin exploring what it would take to be able to send mail-in ballot applications to every voter, including what supplies would be necessary for such a large undertaking”
The county asked the state to expand its emergency declaration to allow the entire primary election to be conducted by mail, but Pennsylvania has not yet acted, Fitzgerald said.
“Without that authority, we’re moving forward with our plans to mail the mail-in ballot applications,” he said.
Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — conduct their elections entirely by mail, and more than 20 other states allow voters to cast ballots by mail.
In addition to president and members of the U.S. Congress, Pennsylvania voters this year will be electing state representatives. Half of the Pennsylvania state senate is also up for re-election, including state Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport.
During a primary election, registered voters in each party nominate candidates to run in the general election in November.
Pennsylvania’s primary was scheduled for April 28, but as part of the state’s emergency declaration, the election was postponed to June 2. According to published reports, at least 16 states moved their primary elections due to the pandemic.
Allegheny County officials said they have already received more than 71,000 applications for absentee and mail-in ballots. More than 20,000 of those applications have been processed and the first mailing of ballots was sent out last week, they said.
“We hope that voters will continue to seek mail-in ballots as it is the safest option for them, and for all of our residents, during this pandemic,” Fitzgerald said.
Jason Togyer is editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published April 18, 2020.