The 2020 general election in which Americans will vote for president is barely two months away, and due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic many states have expanded the option to vote by mail.
As many as 80 million Americans–including hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians–are expected to cast their ballots at a mailbox instead of inside a polling station Nov. 3; a statistic voting rights advocates have cheered, but opponents have criticized.
Among the opponents to voting by mail is President Donald Trump, who along with other prominent Republicans has said he believes it will increase the likelihood of voter fraud.
Voting rights advocates maintain that there is little if any evidence to back that claim, and have pointed to recent United States Postal Service cuts as being part of an attempt to slow the delivery of mail and threaten the votes that will be cast, because they may not be delivered in time to be counted.
With so many concerns about voting by mail–on both sides of the political spectrum–Saucon Source felt it was important to have a local official address some of them.
The answers to the questions below–some of which were reader-submitted–were provided by Northampton County Deputy Director of Administration Becky Bartlett.
Northampton County’s Director of Elections is Amy Cozze.
Mail-in ballots are expected to be available in mid-September.
Will Northampton County have secure drop boxes for mail-in ballots? If so, where will they be located and available for use? How will the boxes be protected to safeguard against potential fraud?
- Yes. During the Primary election in June, we had a secure ballot drop box available in the Rotunda of the County Courthouse at 669 Washington St., Easton, Pa. Sheriff’s deputies are always in the area and the box is under 24-hour video surveillance. We plan on making the box available for the General Election once mail-in ballots become available.
What are the Election Day polling station procedures for voting for someone who has a mail-in ballot that they no longer wish to use?
- A voter who has requested a mail-in ballot but decides they would rather vote on the machine can bring their ballot and the return envelope with them to the polls. The Judge of Election will spoil the ballot and let them cast their vote on the voting machine.
Will any polling locations be changed? How will voters know if their polling location has changed?
- Northampton 4 is now at Gospel Church, 1769 Newport Ave., Northampton, Pa., Hellertown 3 (formerly located at Saucon Valley Community Center, 323 Northampton Street, Hellertown) is now at Saucon Valley High School Gym, 2100 Polk Valley Road, Hellertown, Pa., and Easton 8W and 8E is now at Paxinosa Elementary School, 1221 Northampton St., Easton, Pa. Not sure where your polling station is located? Find it using the Pennsylvania Department of State’s online polling place search tool.
Will masks be required of voters and staff? How will a mask requirement be enforced?
- All poll workers are required to wear masks. We strongly request that voters also wear masks to respect the people volunteering for the election.
Is there adequate staff for the county’s polling stations?
- We are actively recruiting to fully staff all 154 precincts for the general election
Have the new Northampton County voting machines been tested? After the problems that occurred during the 2019 general election, how can voters be confident that they will be fully functional?
- The machines were all recalibrated after the election in November 2019 and will undergo testing before the election on Nov. 3, 2020. The machines performed very well during the Primary Election in June.
Have the voter registration verification books been printed or will the county be switching to a computerized verification system? (If the latter, how will that work?)
- Northampton County switched to E-poll books in 2020 and used them in the Primary. E-poll books will be used in the General Election as well.
Have PA voter websites been updated to list drop box instructions and will ballots be mailed with updated information including new covid rules and drop box options included?
- Voting instructions will be available on our website and social media platforms. We will also make a push to the press to make sure voters can get the information they need.
Is there anything visible on the outside of mail-in ballot envelopes that indicates the voter’s party affiliation, i.e. a “D” for a registered Democrat?
If ballots are now designed as bulk mail, will using a stamp require that the ballot be handled as priority mail? (Some news reports have indicated that mail with prepaid postage will be treated by the United States Postal Service as bulk mail by default, which could significantly increase the amount of time it takes for it to be delivered.)
- We have metered the return envelopes with first class postage, not bulk mail.
Will voters who vote by mail receive a confirmation that their ballot has been received by the county?
- Voters who signed up via VotesPA.com will receive email confirmations when their application is approved, when their ballot is mailed and when their ballot is received by the Elections Office. All other voters can track the status of their ballot at VotesPA.com.
In light of warnings about delays in delivery recently issued by the USPS, what is the latest date a voter can mail in their ballot and know that it will be counted?
- We recommend voters return their mail-in ballots as soon as possible. The current recommendation is to mail the ballot by Oct. 20.
How and to whom should voters report problems with voting to the county, either before or on Election Day?
- The Northampton County Elections Office can be reached at 610-829-6260 or email@example.com.