HARRISBURG, Pa - Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is boosting its efforts to get voters to cast their primary election ballots by mail, saying it would help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The administration sent 4.2 million postcards to primary voters and is mounting an awareness campaign on radio, television, social media, streaming services, mobile apps and email, officials said Wednesday.
Wolf's administration has not heeded calls from several heavily populated counties to move to an all-mail June 2 election, or nearly all-mail, by mailing a ballot to every registered voter.
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But the state's efforts to get voters to apply for a mail-in ballot or absentee ballot have gotten traction, with more than 462,000 voters applying for a mail-in ballot and more than 139,000 applying for an absentee ballot, according to Wolf administration figures.
Wolf's administration has rejected the idea of mailing out ballots, saying it worried about ensuring that voting is accessible to the disabled and that ballots are mailed to the correct addresses.
Republican and Democratic party officials in Pennsylvania have encouraged people to vote by mail amid concerns from county officials who fear the virus will make it difficult to find polling places and get poll workers to staff them. Election officials in various counties say they probably will be forced to operate far fewer polling places than normal.
During the 2016 primary, 84,000 votes were cast under the absentee ballot system, which is available only to those who offer an acceptable reason they would not be able to vote in person. Mail-in ballots were authorized in a sweeping new election law Wolf signed last fall.
Registered voters can apply online for a mail-in or absentee ballot through 5 p.m. May 26.
Wolf's administration said it will use federal aid to provide counties with funding to promote mail-in voting, purchase protective supplies for poll workers and hire additional election staff.
The state government is also purchasing infection-protection kits for all counties to use in precinct polling places.
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