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George Keebler fills out his ballot as he votes at the Wisdom's Table at St Peter's UCC on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

More than 80,000 Lancaster County voters will receive their 2020 general election mail-in ballots in the coming days, the biggest vote-by-mail turnout in the county's history.

Voting by mail is new to most voters this year, the result of COVID-19 concerns leading more voters than ever to make use of a 2019 law that made it easier to request mail-in ballots. As such, election officials are urging voters to carefully follow the instructions for completing and returning a ballot. A simple mistake could disqualify a ballot.

In the below video, Randall Wenger, chief clerk of the Lancaster County Board of Elections, demonstrates how voters correctly fill out and seal a ballot.

First, each ballot will come with a yellow instruction card. Read it carefully.

After going through the ballot and making selections, voters must then remember to place the completed ballot inside the envelope marked “official ballot.” So-called naked ballots, or those returned without being placed inside the secrecy envelope, will not be counted.

(Reminder: There is no longer a "straight ticket" option on ballots allowing a voter to mark one box to support all of a party's candidates in all partisan races. Starting this year, voters must go through the entire ballot and make selections in every race the voter wants to participate in.)

Once that step is complete, the envelope containing the ballot can be placed inside the official return envelope. After sealing, voters must sign the return envelope before placing it in the mail or dropping off at the county elections office (a ballot dropbox will be placed in the lobby of 150 N. Queen St. in Lancaster).

One important reminder: If you decide to deliver your mail-in ballot to the elections office in-person, don’t bring anyone else’s ballot with you. In Pennsylvania, only the registered voter a ballot belongs to can be submitted in-person.

This November's election is also the first one where there will not be a “straight party” voting option. Voters should pay close attention to the ballot and make a selection for every race.

Mail-in voters should return ballots as soon as possible to avoid postal delivery delays. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day and received by the county elections office by 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, will be counted. However, the Pennsylvania Republican Party is challenging the 3-day extension in court. The safe bet is to get the ballot back to the elections office by Election Day, Nov. 3.

An LNP | LancasterOnline test of the postal service system in Lancaster County found that while most mock ballots were returned in 2-3 days, some took 4-7 days. Mail-in voters who want to play it extra safe, therefore, should strive to put their ballot in the mail no later than Oct. 27 (ballots can be dropped off in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day).

Lancaster County voters who have already applied for a mail-in ballot can expect their ballot to arrive as soon as Saturday, Oct. 3, or by early next week.

Voters can apply for a mail-in ballot until Oct. 27. Apply online at VotesPA.com. Voters can also call the Pennsylvania Department of State at 877-868-3772, or visit the Lancaster County elections office, located at 150 N. Queen St. in Lancaster city; the office is in Suite 117 (enter through the Chestnut Street entrance).


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