Thousands of Voters Use New Online Absentee Ballot Application in First Week
September 23, 2019
Harrisburg, PA — Governor Tom Wolf announced today that Pennsylvania’s newest voting innovation – online absentee ballot applications at votesPA.com/ApplyAbsentee – is a resounding success, with nearly 4,300 voters using the system in the first week.
“The success of letting people apply online for an absentee ballot proves that Pennsylvanians want voting to be more accessible,” said Governor Wolf. “This was an important next step to modernize our elections, and I hope it encourages more voters to participate in our democracy.”
In August 2015, Governor Wolf launched online voter registration, which has been similarly popular. More than 1.4 million applicants have used the site to apply for a new voter registration or update an existing registration. Until last week, Pennsylvania voters could only apply on paper for an absentee ballot and then wait to receive it in the mail.
The timesaving online absentee ballot application is especially welcome given the tight time limits mandated by the 1937 Pennsylvania Election Code, Governor Wolf noted.
The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is one week before the election, or 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, this year. The deadline for county election offices to receive voted absentee ballots is just three days later, on the Friday before the election. This year that deadline is 5 p.m. Nov. 1.
Online applications are forwarded directly to the appropriate county for processing. Absentee voters must still mail or hand-deliver their voted ballot to their county election office. The Department of State urges voters to apply for their absentee ballot as soon as possible, so they can receive and return it well ahead of the deadline.
“I’m delighted at how quickly and eagerly Pennsylvanians embraced this innovation,” Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said. “The department is committed to finding ways we can make the voting process more convenient and accessible for all eligible voters.”
The online application is currently available to all domestic Pennsylvania voters. It will be opened to military and overseas voters in 2020. Online applications require a PennDOT driver’s license or ID number. The Department of State is planning an update, also in 2020, that will allow applicants without a PennDOT number to use the online system.
In Pennsylvania, absentee ballots may be cast by voters with illnesses or disabilities, voters who will be away from their home municipality on business on Election Day, and Pennsylvania college students attending out-of-state colleges or universities, among others.