Over the past week, thousands of Lancaster County voters may have been surprised by a letter from the county’s voter registration office.
Starting Monday, letters titled “annual request to vote by mail” were mailed to 76,473 voters, over a fifth of the total number of registered voters in the county.
They were sent to voters who, when they applied for a mail-in ballot in 2020, checked the box indicating that they wanted to vote by mail in every election.
So why are these voters being asked to fill out another form?
“As we’ve been joking, saying ‘permanently’ means ‘annual,’” said Diane Skilling, interim chief clerk of voter registration.
She explained that the 2019 law that expanded vote-by-mail in Pennsylvania requires voters to affirm every year that they want a mail-in ballot to be sent to them.
“That’s the way the law was written. ‘Permanent’ only means for (that year’s primary and general elections) and every county is required to put a renew letter in the mail the first Monday of February,” Skilling said.
Voters who received the county letter must respond by May 11, the Tuesday before the May 18 primary election. The letter includes a form the voter can fill out before returning it to the Lancaster County Voter Registration Office located on the first floor of the Lancaster County Government Center at 150 N. Queen St. in Lancaster.
If the renewal form is not returned by May 11, the voter will not automatically receive a mail-in ballot for the primary and general elections. But not responding doesn’t mean a voter can’t cast a ballot in person, Skilling said.
“If they just ignore it, they will not get a ballot and they will remain on the list and receive again in February,” Skilling said.
If a voter fills out the renewal form, but then wishes to vote in person, they will need to fill out a mail-in ballot cancelation form, which can be acquired at the Voter Registration Office.
The mailing sent to voters this month cost the county about $31,000 total, both for printing the letters and covering the postage costs.