Pennsylvania Lawmaker Promotes Vote by Mail for Primary: Coronavirus Could Make In-Person Voting ‘Unrealistic’

Ballot Processing Manager Jerelyn Hampton sorts vote-by-mail ballots by party for the presidential primary at King County Elections in Renton, Washington on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

Pennsylvania state lawmaker Rep. Kevin Boyle (D) is urging his colleagues to consider his bill requiring the state to mail a ballot to every eligible voter as key businesses and industries across the United States continue to take drastic, proactive measures to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

While Pennsylvania’s primary elections are over a month away (April 28), Boyle is thinking ahead and believes the state needs to prepare for the possibility of the virus having an impact on the state’s elections.

His solution is a bill that would require the state to send every eligible voter a mail-in ballot. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, his bill would “set aside $40 million for ballots to be sent in ‘postage prepaid, pre-addressed return envelopes,’” serving as a safeguard to the possibility of the cancellation of the in-person election.

“PA needs to be realistic about the Apr 28 election,” he said on Thursday. “We don’t know what the future beholds or whether in person voting will be safe let alone viable for citizens & election workers alike”:

Boyle called the pandemic a “once-in-a-lifetime crisis that we’re facing,” adding, “If that were to unfold, you’re talking about a situation where I think it would be unrealistic to have in-person voting on April 28.”

“I think legislatively we have to move on this next week or the week after to have a primary in late April,” he told the paper. “If this bill doesn’t pass, it becomes a realistic option that we don’t have a primary on April 28.”

More via the Inquirer:

Pennsylvania is also having “comprehensive discussions” about the primary, including the Department of Health, the governor’s office, the General Assembly, and county officials, according to Wanda Murren, a spokesperson for the Department of State, which oversees elections.

“Our focus is on best ways to protect the integrity of the election while safeguarding public health,” said Murren, pointing voters to the state’s new mail-in ballot option, which does not require an excuse for not showing up at a polling place.

The news comes as the state officials consider the potential impacts the virus could have on upcoming primary elections. Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin confirmed on Friday that the state is postponing its April 4 primary elections.

He said in part:

The health and safety of Louisiana residents is critical, and we want to do our part to prevent the spread of this highly infectious disease. One key stakeholder in our decision is our election day polling commissioners. Over half of Louisiana’s polling commissioners are over the age of 65, and the CDC warns that the older adults; people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as: heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are the people most at risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

“We have requested postponing the April 4 Presidential Preference Primary and Municipal Primary until June 20 and postponing the May 9 General election until July 25,” Ardoin announced.

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