Everybody is still settling into the rhythms of Pennsylvania’s new election calendar, which was changed significantly because of the new vote-by-mail option, and one thing not everyone may have been expecting just yet is that it's already almost time for early voting!
The vote-by-mail change came with a 50-day early voting window for mail voting that technically begins this coming Monday, March 29th. In practice, the ballots aren’t going to be ready to go by then because there are still some ballot challenges to resolve, and the Commissioners can’t arrange or print the ballots until all that’s settled.
It’s likely that the first tranche of mail ballots will begin showing up in people’s mailboxes about two weeks from now, according to sources, but that still leaves about 7 weeks for no-excuse early voting in the primary, whereas just over a year ago, the only option for most people was to go in person to vote on Election Day.
People can apply now to vote by mail in the primary by May 11th, and your application needs to be received by the county election office by 5pm that day. Mail ballots have to be received by 8pm on Election Day, May 18th.
One issue there’s not much clarity on yet is the extent to which the early voting centers and dropboxes that were in effect for the 2020 general election will be returning for the primary or general elections this year. The expected high turnout and 2020 pandemic conditions and plentiful outside funding were a good prod for the city to stand up a decent network of facilities like that, but without the Presidential election and the funding, it’s unclear what the Commissioners are planning to do as a baseline for those expanded voting locations.
Anecdotally, there is a dropbox close to home that has never moved since the election, that presumably will be in use for the primary, and maybe it’s like that elsewhere. But so far there’s been no communication about other staffed early-voting centers.