Lancaster County voters who have requested absentee ballots for the April 26 primary election can expect to receive them early next week.
Legal challenges that were holding up the process have been resolved, and as many as 2,581 absentee ballots will be mailed by Saturday, said Randall Wenger, chief clerk of the Lancaster County Board of Elections.
The original plan was to send the ballots by March 25. But three legal cases regarding the candidates and questions on the ballot delayed those plans, frustrating election officials weeks before one of the state’s most important presidential primaries in recent political history.
After courts ruled on the legal cases last week, local officials will go ahead with printing around 300,000 ballots, in total, to prepare for primary day.
Court decisions could be appealed, but Wenger said he had to place a printing order to comply with state law, which says ballots must be mailed by Tuesday.
“Our ballot is set .... Should there be a decision that comes down from a higher court, we will not be able to alter our ballots,” Wenger told Lancaster County commissioners at a meeting Wednesday.
Voters can request absentee ballots if they can’t make it to their polling places on Election Day. Many who do so are disabled, hospitalized or traveling. And many have been asking when they should expect their ballots.
Wenger’s heard from many who could be affected by the delays. “A voter was traveling to Nepal and will not be able to receive a ballot where she is going,” he said.
More than 2,900 ballot requests have been received so far, including a few hundred already sent overseas to comply with a federal law.
That far outpaces the 1,922 and 1,176 requests seen in the 2012 and 2014 primaries.
Absentee ballots can be requested until April 19. In most instances such ballots need to be returned and postmarked by the Friday before the election.
Rulings were issued in two cases last week challenging whether Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Senate hopeful Democrat Joe Vodvarka can appear on the ballot.
The state Supreme Court upheld a decision by a lower court dismissing the Cruz case, and a Commonwealth Court judge ruled Vodvarka hadn’t obtained enough valid signatures to be included on the ballot.
Questions also were raised about the language of constitutional amendment question to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges. Two weeks ago, the state Supreme Court declined a request to alter the wording, and it will be on the ballot.