According to new data from Bucks County, local Democrats are requesting mail-in ballots at more than twice the rate of Republicans.

With the Presidential race nearing its end and daily life still affected by COVID-19, mail-in ballots are expected to play a large role in the upcoming elections.

Alternative voting methods, in addition to mail-in ballots, were among recommendations made by the CDC for safe voting this year, as normal voting procedures involving long lines and closely-grouped people in indoor spaces are likely to advance the spread of COVID-19.

The presidential race in Bucks County is expected to be hotly contested, as the count of registered Democrats and Republicans is a difference of less than 12,000 voters as of early this year.

Data from Bucks County shows that of currently registered voters, Democrats have requested more than twice as many absentee and mail-in ballots as Republicans. As of October 6, Democratic voters have been sent 89,960 ballots, versus Republican voters’ 40,135. Of those, Bucks County Democrats have already returned 234 ballots, compared to Republicans’ 78.

These trends reflect national disparities in how Americans plan to vote this year. A Gallup poll released today shows that new partisan divides have erupted over voting methods — 62 percent of Democrats plan to vote early or have already voted, compared to 28 percent of Republican voters.

This 34-point gap looms large in comparison to 2016, when there was a 2 percent gap between parties, and 2012, when there was no gap.

Democrats have previously embraced mail-in voting as a safer alternative to voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, but as the election nears, Democratic leaders in Pennsylvania are beginning to push voters to vote in-person if they haven’t already requested a ballot.

In the 2020 primary, the rate that mail-in ballots were thrown out was higher than in recent years, as voters can be confused by the elaborate process of signatures and forms necessary to vote by mail.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that more than 6 percent of the ballots in Philadelphia’s 2019 municipal election were “naked” ballots, showing how confusion and human error could hamper Democrats’ plan for success this year.

Local Republican officials are not specifically emphasizing mail-in voting for their voters.

“We’re encouraging them to vote, period, in whatever way works better for them. For some, mail-in voting works best, because of concerns about COVID, but it’s up to the individual. What I hear from many Republicans is that they don’t trust [mail-in voting],” said Pat Poprick, the chair of Bucks County Republicans.

“I’m expecting a very large turnout on election day — I get calls about it all the time, from Republicans, saying they’ll ‘crawl to the polls’ if they have to.”

Poprick added that the data was in keeping with data from the primary earlier this year.

“This is not unusual; Republicans feel more comfortable voting in person,” Poprick said. “These numbers do not alarm me. We’re ready to go; Republicans are coming out.”