Lancaster County will likely see far fewer mail-in ballots this election cycle than in 2020, posing an easier challenge for the election workers who will need to count them.
So far, more than 22,000 Lancaster County voters have applied for mail-in and absentee ballots. In the 2020 primary, 63,907 ballots were requested.
But there is still about three weeks until the May 11 deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot for the May 18 primary. So it’s not clear if the portion of voters casting ballots by mail will be lower this spring compared with the 2020 primary.
"We are estimating that we will be around 25,000 by the deadline on May 11th at 5pm," Christa Miller, chief clerk of the board of elections, said in an email. "Looking at the election, our plan is to have them opened and counted in two days."
In the 2020 primary it took the Lancaster County elections office three days to count 25,000 ballots, but that pace had sped up significantly by the time of the general election.
Under current law, election workers are unable to begin counting mail-in ballots before election day. Last year Lancaster County Commissioner Ray D’Agostino and former chief elections clerk Randall Wenger voiced support for the idea, known as precanvassing, but a bill that would have made it a reality was vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf.
The Legislature has yet to take up the issue this year.
"We will not have as many volunteers as in November, we will be at about 20-25 volunteers helping," Miller said. "In regards to more pre-canvass time, more time is always beneficial however we foresee no issues working within the timeline given to us for the Primary."
Municipal primaries typically see lower turnout than federal elections. In the 2019 municipal primary, turnout was roughly 19% of all registered voters, less than the roughly 28% seen in the 2020 presidential election primary.
Turnout was even lower in the 2017 primary, with only about 10% of eligible voters going to the polls.
And Lancaster County’s political landscape continues to shift. Republicans continue to slowly lose their registration advantage and their portion of the electorate is now down to 51.13%.
Continuing to gain ground are Democrats, now at 32.51%, and independents and members of minor parties, who now make up 16.34% of the electorate.
Democrats and other parties continue gain ground up to 32.51% and 16.34%, respectively.