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The Off-Year Election Season Begins Next Week. Here’s How to Vote in DelVal

May 16 is Municipal Primary Day in Pennsylvania. Voters will head to local precincts to decide which candidates will participate in the 2023 off-year November elections.

While not as high-profile as state and national elections, this year’s contests will let voters decide who controls numerous critical local offices, including school boards and judgeships.

Since the infamous Florida 2000 election, the voting process has itself become political. Pennsylvania has seen a wave of voting reforms in recent years, and it can be hard for the average voter to keep up with the changes.

Here are the most important rules for voters planning to cast their ballots this year in the Delaware Valley and beyond.

Mail-in voting. During the pandemic, Pennsylvania adopted a no-excuses mail-in voting system. Voters may apply for a mail-in ballot and receive one with no questions asked. The deadline to do so for the primary elections is Tuesday, May 9. For the municipal general elections on November 7, it is Oct. 31. 

Kelly Cofrancisco, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County, told DVJournal that the “most notable changes” to mail-in balloting are “the date requirements.”

“Voters must sign & date the Voters Declaration, expressing the date with month, day and year; and use the date of the day they signed the envelope,” Cofrancisco said.

She said the county itself “changed the color of the inner secrecy envelope to yellow” this year in an effort to “cut down on the number of ‘naked’ ballots, as that is the most common reason we reject ballots in our elections.”

“Voters should seal their ballot into the yellow envelope & then insert the yellow envelope into the white envelope,” she said.

In both the primary and the municipal elections this year, county boards of election must receive mail-in ballots by 8:00 p.m. on the election day (May 16 and Nov. 7, respectively).

In addition to directly mailing their ballots to their respective county offices, Delaware Valley voters can also drop off their ballots at numerous drop boxes in the area. Montgomery County, Delaware County, Chester County, and Bucks County have all published locations of their drop box locations.

Except in narrow circumstances involving disabled voters, ballots can only be returned by those casting them. “Ballot harvesting” — collecting ballots on behalf of others and delivering them to voting authorities — is disallowed by Pennsylvania law.

Voter ID. Pennsylvania has a lax voter identification law. Voters do not need to produce photo identification in order to cast their votes and only need to provide any kind of identification in limited circumstances.

The Pennsylvania Department of State stipulates a voter must produce identification only when he or she votes at a precinct for the first time. If they lack a photo ID, voters can use bank statements, utility bills, paychecks, or several other non-photo forms of ID.

After their first visit to a polling station, voters “need not show any identification unless otherwise noted in the poll book,” the state says.

Voters casting a mail-in ballot must provide either a driver’s license number, part of a Social Security number, or one of several forms of photo ID.

Voting times. Polls are open statewide from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., including in the primary election. Voters in line by 8 p.m. should be allowed to cast a ballot.

Who can vote in the primary? Pennsylvania is one of nine states with closed primaries, meaning only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates during partisan spring elections. (The state allows “all voters” to cast ballots for “constitutional amendments,” “ballot questions,” and “any special election contests held at the same time as a primary election.”)

The Delaware County elections office said on May 16, the 163rd State Representative District will elect a new House Representative while Radnor Township’s 4th Ward (Precincts 1 and 2) will choose a new Township Commissioner. All voters are eligible to participate in these contests.

“In both special elections, voters should be aware that the winning candidates will take office shortly after the election,” the county said. “This is unlike the primary contests, where candidates are seeking the nomination to represent a party on the November ballots.”

The closed primary system may change shortly. State Sens. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) and Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) introduced a measure last month to move Pennsylvania to an “open primary” where independents can cast ballots for major party candidates.

Currently, the only option for independents is to register as a major party member before an election. The 15-day deadline for doing so in the May primary has passed, but there’s still plenty of time to change affiliations before the November municipal election.

DelVal voters can review local voting rules information on the Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware county websites.

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Picture Proof of Chester County Voters Ignoring One-Ballot Rule, Critics Say

Daryl Campbell and other Chester County residents have repeatedly complained to county commissioners that ballot drop boxes were not secure.

“They always asked us, ‘Where’s your evidence?’” Campbell said. So, the West Chester resident filed a right-to-know request for the video from cameras used to monitor drop boxes during the 2022 primary. He found some 300 pictures of voters putting multiple ballots into a drop box just outside the county Voter Services Center at 601 Westtown Road, along with a video.

Campbell and three other county voters filed a lawsuit last Friday asking the court to order county officials to secure the drop boxes.

Campbell told DVJournal that, as a voter, he is being disenfranchised by the county policy to “secure” the 13 drop boxes with only video cameras that are not monitored.

Asked if perhaps people did not realize they should by law only put their own ballot into a drop box, Campbell pointed out there is a sign on the drop box warning them of that law.

“We are not against the idea of drop boxes,” said Campbell. “We have a problem with them not being secure.”

“My rights are being violated,” said Campbell, who noted that he is not given two or three ballots to fill out when he goes and votes in person. “They were giving people a chance to vote more than once. You’re giving people the opportunity for fraud. This is an election. It’s a sacred thing when you go to vote.”

“Mailed or absentee ballots returned by someone other than the voter are void, invalid, and should not be counted,” the suit said.

Villanova lawyer Wally Zimolong, who filed the lawsuit along with America First Legal Foundation, said, “When the drop boxes are open to receive ballots, the Board of Elections should require monitors to make sure voters are complying with the law. It is no different than the folks that work at the precincts on Election Day who make sure the election is properly conducted. No one objects to having monitors in place there. Drop boxes should not receive special treatment.”

Michael Taylor, the former solicitor for the Chester County Republicans, said, “We had been concerned that the drop boxes were allowing voters (intentionally or mistakenly) to violate the Pennsylvania election code. We wrote to Chester County in March 2022, raising these concerns. We also provided the county with a number of reasonable enhancements for the security of drop boxes in Chester County. We hoped that bringing light to the obvious criminal violations would spur some cross-party reforms that promoted election integrity.

“Sadly, our suggestions were rejected, and our concerns were realized when these photographs were uncovered. Now, before this important general election, it is incumbent that the Chester County Board of Commissioners take meaningful steps to ensure that any drop boxes used in Chester County are not facilitating breaches of the Election Code. Chester County cannot be complicit with or seen to condone those who violate the law.”

Rebecca Brain, a county spokeswoman said, “Since the bipartisan Act 77 came into effect two years ago, Chester County Voter Services has continually reviewed and refined the ways in which mail-in ballots can be cast to ensure all eligible citizens who are registered to vote can do so – whether in person or by mail.

“The county has produced, posted, and publicized informational videos on many aspects of the election process, including voting by the legislature’s newly authorized mail-in ballot. Clear signage on mail-in ballot drop boxes throughout the county notes the rules for returning a mail-in ballot.  Additional efforts by Chester County Voter Services for the November 2022 election, which will be undertaken to further educate Republican and Democrat voters alike on the rules for returning a mail-in ballot, include brightly colored notices inserted with all mail-in ballots that clearly explain the rules for returning a mail-in ballot, and the staffing of drop boxes during the drop box opening hours, to monitor and remind all voters of the mail-in ballot rules.

“All images that were presented to Chester County Voter Services, which allegedly indicate in few instances that more than one ballot may have been submitted through a drop box, have been forwarded to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office for review.”

A spokeswoman for the district attorney said the matter is under investigation and her office could not comment.


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Group Wants GOP Primary Voters to Press Officials to Repeal Act 77

A new group is telling Pennsylvania residents to rise up and reclaim the voting process it says went awry when the state legislature passed Act 77 in 2019.

Act 77, among other things, gives voters 50 days of no-excuse mail-in voting before an election and brought ballot boxes, which have proved controversial. The group,, is sending text messages to Republican primary voters targeting state representatives and senators who passed Act 77

Messages sent on Wednesday targeted Rep. Seth Grove (R-York). Texts are going out to Sen. Jake Corman’s district on Thursday. Corman (R-Centre) is a candidate for governor.

“Blame GOP State Rep. Seth Grove for the 2020 election fraud in PA. He voted for the unconstitutional Act 77, which led to ballot-box stuffing and the defeat of President Trump. Now Grove will not do what it takes to repeal the bogus law. Help us convince him to do what is right.”

Ballot Security Now wants voters to demand their representative or senator sign a pledge to support action to repeal Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional Act 77 and restore all voting methods to those clearly described in the state constitution; support an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution to specify voting will only be by processes in the constitution with no universal mail-in voting allowed; support a law to require photo identification for all methods of voting, in-person or by mail; support a law to require that all voter rolls be cleaned (removing dead voters or those who have moved away) before every election; support a law which requires that all ballots except military ballots must be received in the election office by poll closing time on Election Day.

Grove declined to comment about the texts, although he acknowledged receiving one.

“I have launched our state constitutionally mandated review of the 2020 election in a transparent fashion,” said Corman. “I have significant issues with Act 77 and how Gov. Wolf violated the law. As governor, I’m going to pass legislation that eliminates drop boxes, institutes photo ID requirements, and ends what has been a disastrous, no-excuse mail-in-ballot program. All Pennsylvania voters, regardless of party, must have confidence that their vote will be counted. If we don’t have faith in our elections, we have nothing.”

Locally, the Montgomery County Republican Party has accused Democrats of ballot-box stuffing and aired a video showing a woman placing multiple ballots in a box in Upper Dublin in November 2021. However, county officials claim that what she did is permitted.

Doug McLinko

Doug McLinko, a Bradford County commissioner, is passionate about fair elections. McLinko, also a member of the Bradford Board of Elections, is a plaintiff in a case against the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, who is in charge of elections. He contends that because the move to mail-in voting was done unconstitutionally, he was placed in the untenable position of being required by the state to “act unlawfully.”

He argued on constitutional grounds and won in Commonwealth Court, which found Act 77 violates Pennsylvania’s constitution. Attorney General Josh Shapiro appealed to the state Supreme Court, where it is pending.

McLinko argues Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has long held that the state constitution requires in-person voting.

McLinko, a Republican, blames his party for Act 77 since Republican legislators passed it without Democratic votes.

“They destroyed the voting system in Pennsylvania,” he said. “And they never did anything to fix it. They can say they have, but they haven’t.”

While many people believe the pandemic led to mail-in ballots, Act 77 was approved before COVID.

While the legislature has held hearings and discussed auditing the vote, McLinko called that “smoke and mirrors,” which has not led to any meaningful action. A constitutional amendment needs to be placed on the ballot as soon as possible, he said. Otherwise, Pennsylvania and its crucial Electoral College votes will go to the Democrats in the 2024 presidential election and beyond.

He believes the Keystone State is the key and necessary for any Republican to retake the White House.

“Pennsylvania is the prize of swing states,” he said. And even if a Republican is elected governor in the fall, without removing Act 77, the 2024 election remains in jeopardy. The legislature must act to repeal the bill, he said.

“They screwed it up once, and they are capable of screwing it up again,” McLinko said.

If elected representatives will not take the Ballot Security Now pledge, McLinko called on voters to mount primary challenges.

“The deplorables are angry in Pennsylvania,” said McLinko. “And when you find out how bad this is, and what the state legislature did to your precious right to vote, you are going to be furious, too. And they don’t have any desire to fix it.”

“They all say they want investigations and audits, which means nothing,” said McLinko. “We need a constitutional amendment.”

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Ballot Box Dispute Roils Montgomery County

Montgomery County officials have taken issue with a video that the county Republican Party obtained through a right-to-know request and released to the news media.

The video shows a woman feeding several ballots into an Upper Dublin ballot box used in last November’s election. Ballot boxes and no excuse mail-in ballots permitted under Act 77 have been an issue in the last three elections, with many voters questioning the integrity of the new system.

Even though individuals are required to put their own ballots into ballot boxes, the county said in a letter to GOP Chair Liz Preate Havey that the woman shown was permitted to submit those ballots because she had “a completed Designated Agent Form in accordance with Pennsylvania law.”

“Each form properly identified the individual voter and designated the individual in the video as the person permitted to act as an agent on the voter’s behalf,” the letter said. “The county maintains each of these Designated Agent forms in its possession. This individual did nothing wrong. In fact, the video shows this voter taking the proper steps to enfranchise residents of a local rehabilitation and long-term care facility so that their votes were legally cast.

“It is irresponsible that MCRC, rather than make a reasonable attempt to get the facts, released this video to a third party and on MCRC social media falsely accusing the individual involved with ‘illegal ballot harvesting,’ when in fact, the individual correctly followed the rules for returning ballots. Mail-in ballots may be returned to the Board of Elections by a designated agent acting on behalf of a voter who, due to a disability, is not able to do so on their own.

“Returning ballots to a secure ballot drop box is one of several ways to return ballots to the Board of Elections. Many voters of both parties choose to deliver their ballot to a secure drop box for the peace of mind they provide. Each drop box has the rules clearly posted, is under 24-hour video surveillance, and has every ballot collected daily by a sheriff’s deputy and delivered directly to Voter Services,” according to the letter, which a county spokesperson released to Delaware Valley Journal.

Not surprisingly, the Republicans disagreed with the county officials’ explanation.

In a press release, GOP officials said, “The Pennsylvania Department of State designated agent form clearly states, ‘the person you designate as your agent is only allowed to serve as a designated agent for one voter, unless the additional voter(s) live in the same household as you (the voter named in this form).’”

They called the county’s response “deeply troubling.”

“The county is interpreting a large senior living facility as one household,” the Republicans said. “The Pennsylvania Department of State Voting Fact Sheet for Long Term Care Facilities specifically states a  ‘household’ for the purpose of designating an agent does not include a long-term care facility.”

Also, “the county fails to note whether or not the woman who did the ballot harvesting lives in the ‘same household as all the people for whom she dropped the ballots as required by Pennsylvania law. That is because she does not live in a senior living facility according to her voter registration. She has been identified by many as a long-time leader in the Democrat Party.”

And the Republicans said, “The county never addressed designated agents using drop boxes for any reason in its published instructions or in any communication with the Republican Party or its candidates.”

“The Democrat-controlled county has chosen to protect one of its own party leaders in direct violation of Pennsylvania law,” the Republicans added. “This kind of blatant disregard for even the simplest election security rules is unacceptable and contributes to the deep distrust many have in our system.”

In addition, the “MCRC is requesting the Montgomery County Election Board provide all the evidence that the county reviewed regarding the woman who dropped the multiple ballots. And we ask that it also provide the information to the district attorney and, if appropriate, the attorney general.

“We would also like to know the county’s conclusions and actions to be taken about each of the other 106 people who dropped more than one ballot at the Upper Dublin drop box. If the county does not provide this information, MCRC is prepared to submit a Right to Know Request for this information.”

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