Pa. absentee ballots spike for midterm election

Written by Teresa Boeckel/The York Daily Record | Oct 24, 2018 9:28 AM

FILE - Chief clerk Joellen Sohn and Voter Registration Office Director Michael Anderson file absentee ballots in their appropriate precinct in preparation for the 2016 election. (John Latimer/The Lebanon Daily News)

With a week still left to go, so many voters have applied for absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election that the state has already surpassed the 2014 level.

"We're calling it the mini-presidential," said Monica Dutko, elections director for Adams County.

As of last week, her office had received 1,201 applications, she said. Four years ago, during the gubernatorial election, the office had processed fewer than 800.

With the way they are coming in, she said, Adams County could end up processing 1,500 or 1,600 absentee applications.

It's the same in other counties, including York and Lancaster, and even statewide. It's a reflection of what to expect in the Nov. 6 election, said Terry Madonna, a pollster and political scientist in Pennsylvania.

"We're going to have a big turnout," he said.

For much of the year, Democratic voters have expressed enthusiasm for the midterm election, he said. Now, with the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump's recent rallies, Republicans are expressing excitement about the election.

"This doesn't surprise me at all that we're seeing an uptick in early voting," he said. 

What isn't known yet is who is more certain to vote, Madonna said.

In York County, more than 4,107 absentee ballots had been sent out as of Friday, and the office was still processing hundreds more. Four years ago, the county sent out a total of 2,768, said Sally Kohlbus, assistant elections director.

Many of the applicants this fall are college-age adults, Kohlbus said.

"I guess all these kids are listening to Taylor Swift," she said.

Swift has been talking about politics this year and has been informing fans about voting.

In York County, the breakdown of those applying for the absentee ballots requested are:

  • 1,509 Democratic voters
  • 2,227 Republican voters
  • 371 third-party voters

In Lancaster County, the number of applications is higher than 2014 and 2010, said Randall Wenger, elections director. As of last week, the county had about 5,100 applications.

"I'm sure we'll get to 6,000," he said.

Statewide, the numbers are high as well. As of the middle of last week, the total number of applications reached 134,013, said Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State. Four years ago, a total of 96,849 domestic ballots were sent out.

Voters still have time to request an absentee ballot. The deadline is Oct. 30.

The absentee ballot must be in the elections office by Nov. 2.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record. 

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