How to apply for an absentee ballot in a sea of applications

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Many people fill out multiple applications and think they should have gotten their ballots already, but they can't legally be mailed out until Oct. 6

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Many people are being barraged by absentee ballot applications and aren’t sure whether they should fill out one or all of them. Mahoning County Board of Elections Director Joyce Kale-Pesta spoke to First News to provide some direction.

“The first applications we got were by phone. A lot of people who had to vote in the primary because of the change in the election process requested us to send them an application, and they sent it back,” she said. “The second mailing was from the Secretary of the State. The third, fourth and fifth mailings were from candidates.”

Kale-Pesta said many people fill out multiple applications and think they should have gotten their ballots already, but they can’t legally be mailed out until October 6.

“If they’ve already submitted one, one application does it,” she said. “They do not have to fill out all of them and waste the postage or mail them in.

One of the most important things people need to do when they receive their ballots is to fill out all of the identification information on the envelope.

“It’s always good to put the phone number on it, just in case we have an issue or we have to ask you a question. If we can reach you by phone, it alleviates a lot of problems,” said Kale-Pesta. “We want every ballot to be counted.”

Kale-Pesta also said if you have requested an absentee ballot but have decided to vote at the polls, that’s OK as long as you vote provisionally and you didn’t submit the ballot.

“We count the first ballot we receive,” she said. “We work it out when it comes back here to the Board of Elections. Provisionally means we separate your ballots when they come back to us and we go through the process to see whether you’ve sent your other ballot back or whether you changed your address, what other reasons you might have for voting provisionally. It’s just a safeguard to make sure the ballots do count.”

So basically, if someone does vote twice, Kale-Pesta says they have a system in place to catch it. If you live in Mahoning County, you can check if you’ve sent an application for an absentee ballot at vote.mahoningcountyoh.gov. Select “track my absentee ballot” and follow the steps from there.

“We only had 42,000 absentee and walk-in ballots in the last presidential election,” Kale-Pesta said. “We’re at 45,000 now and we haven’t even started early voting. That doesn’t start until Oct. 6.”

She said it’s safe for people to vote absentee and for those who choose to go to the polls. They’ve taken all the necessary guidelines to keep voters distanced and everything sanitized.

“We’ve done it all, so we’re in good shape for early voting,” said Kale-Pesta. “I don’t want anybody to be afraid to go early vote because they will be safe.”

Pennsylvanians have until Oct. 19 to register to vote for the Nov. 3 election. If an individual wants to vote by mail, they must apply by 5 p.m. Oct. 27. They can apply online or print out an application and turn it into the local Board of Elections.

Once a ballot is received, it must be postmarked no later than 8 p.m. Nov. 3 and received by the county election office by 5 p.m. Nov. 6.

For more information or print out an application go to votespa.com.

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