Kellen Stepler | editor-in-chief
Polling places in Pennsylvania will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and all polling places in Allegheny County will be open.
First time voters will be asked to show an approved form of identification. These include: a PA driver’s license, an ID issued by the state or federal agency, a passport, an armed forces ID, a student ID or an employee ID. Additionally, a voter identification card, a firearm permit, current utility bill, a paycheck, bank statement or government paycheck are also approved forms of identification.
To vote in-person, voters must wear face coverings and observe safety protocols. To find your polling place, go to votespa.com or call 877-VOTESPA (877-868-3772).
In a press conference Tuesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said that the Department of State has provided masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, sneeze guards, towels and tape to mark social distancing to all 67 counties.
“We ask every voter to wear a mask, to protect themselves, and as a respect and a courtesy to others as well,” she said.
As of Oct. 28, 1,978,482 Pennsylvanians have already voted by mail, Boockvar said in a press conference Wednesday.
“The expansion of mail-in voting here in Pennsylvania gave more voters options and it strengthened our democracy right here in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “We anticipate that our county election offices will see a historic surge in the number of mail-in ballots received, as well as the overall number of ballots voted.”
Over 3 million Pennsylvanians have applied for an absentee ballot or a mail-in ballot. Wolf urged voters to hand-deliver mail-in ballots immediately.
“If you still have your mail-in ballot, fill it out now,” Wolf said. “Don’t wait — hand deliver your vote ballot at a secure drop box or at the county board of elections.”
As of Oct. 28, 292,531 ballots have been returned in Allegheny County, according to the county. Of those, 217,022 have been Democratic, 48,738 have been Republican, 252 Green and 744 Liberterian. The state reported 65% of mail-in ballots have been returned.
Voters must return their mail-in or absentee ballots to their county election board’s drop boxes before 8 p.m. on Election Day. For Allegheny County voters, the closest drop box to Duquesne University is a half-mile away at the Allegheny County Office Building at 542 Forbes Ave. Boockvar noted that locations can be found on votespa.com.
“Just make sure, no matter what, that you drop off your ballot by 8 p.m. on Election Day,” Boockvar said.
Wolf reminded voters to secure their voted ballots in the secrecy envelope and then fill out the declaration in the mailing envelope.
“That gives you the peace of mind that your ballot is in on time, and that your vote will be counted,” he said.
Should your mail-in or absentee ballot not be accepted, Boockvar said that voters can still vote a provisional ballot on Election Day.
“If you just forgot to sign the ballot, and that ballot is not going to be counted, you can still go in on Election Day, check in with the poll workers like normally, and you’ll be able to vote by provisional ballot and your ballot will be counted as long as you don’t have another mail-in or absentee ballot on record as having been counted,” Boockvar said.
Wolf predicted that because over 3 million people are voting by mail, the lines will be shorter and the polling places will be less crowded.
“That’s good news for Pennsylvanians who prefer to vote in-person because it’s going to help to ensure that every single voter can cast their vote in a way that’s both safe and secure,” Wolf said.
Nov. 3, Election Day, is the deadline for returning a voted mail-in or absentee ballot. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day and received by the county election office by 5 p.m. Nov. 6 to be counted.
Boockvar said on Wednesday that as of Oct. 28, voter registration in Pennsylvania has reached 9,081,933 — a record high. 4,228,962 are registered Democrats, 3,542,313 are registered Republicans, 911,397 are non-affiliated and 399,261 are other.
“This is an exciting time for democracy in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “More eligible voters can exercise their right to vote than ever before.”
With one week to go before the election, Wolf said that “it’s vital to make sure that everybody has a plan in place to vote.”
“If you’re voting at the polls, make a plan now to make sure you’re there on Nov. 3,” Wolf said. “Either way, your vote really matters.”
Obviously, the presidency will be up for grabs, with Republican incumbent Donald Trump, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgenson. Each candidate must receive 270 of 538 electoral votes — Pennsylvania accounts for 20 of those votes.
In 2016, Trump won 48.2% of the vote in Pennsylvania, while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won 47.5% However, in Allegheny County, Clinton earned 55.9% of the vote compared to Trump’s 39.5%. President Barack Obama won both the state and the county in 2012.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General position — the state’s top lawyer — will also be on the ballot. Elected for a four-year term, the attorney general investigates public corruption, defends the state in lawsuits, investigating criminal operations and works as a political figure along with the governor and state legislature.
Democrat Josh Shapiro is looking for a second term in this position. Shapiro, of Montgomery County, won the race by three points in 2016 and since then, he has opposed Trump’s travel ban in 2017, moved forward with an investigation of allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in 2018 and supported the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults in 2019.
He will be challenged by Republican Heather Heidelbaugh of Mount Lebanon, who is a partner at the law firm Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl with over 35 years of experience in the courtroom. In a Tuesday tweet, Heidelbaugh wrote that “Shapiro’s focus is on a higher political office, mine is on the rule of law.”
Daniel Wassmer, a longtime attorney and adjunct professor at Bucks County Community College will be representing the Libertarian Party, while Pittsburgh native Richard Weiss will be running on behalf of the Green Party for the Attorney General race.
The ballot will also feature the race for Pennsylvania Auditor General. The chief fiscal watchdog of the state, the auditor general is responsible for using audits to ensure all state money is used legally and properly, according to the commonwealth’s auditor general website.
Nina Ahmad will be representing the Democratic party in the race for auditor general, and Timothy Defoor will be on the ticket for the Republican party. Jennifer Moore will represent the Libertarian party and Olivia Faison will represent the Green party. Current PA Auditor General Eugene DePasquale endorsed Ahmad to succeed him on Monday. The auditor general is a four-year term.
For state treasurer, democratic incumbent Joe Torsella will be challenged by Stacy Garrity of the Republican party, Joe Soloski of the Libertarian party and Timothy Runkle of the Green party. According to the state treasury website, “The Pennsylvania Office of the State Treasurer serves as the custodian of more than $100 billion in Commonwealth funds, and is responsible for the receipt and deposit of state monies, investment management and oversight of all withdrawals and deposits from state agencies.” The state treasurer is a four-year term.
Duquesne University is part of the state’s 18th congressional district and 19th legislative district. Voters will choose between democratic incumbent Mike Doyle and republican Luke Edison Negron to represent in Congress. Jake Wheatley, a democrat and member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, will run unopposed. Both seats are two-year terms.
Voters will also see a proposed special election question on their ballots: “Shall the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter, Article Two, Executive, be amended and supplemented by amending and adding new language to Sections 229 and 230 and adding a new Section, 231, expanding the powers of the Independent Citizen Police Review Board to allow the Board to require police officers to participate in investigations, conducting performance audits of the Police Bureau and preventing the removal of Board members except for just cause and with City Council approval?”
In simpler terms, this gives residents a chance to consider whether or not to expand the power of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board (CPRB.) If the measure passes, Pittsburgh police officers would be required to cooperate with CPRB investigations into police misconduct.
The ballot measure would allow the board to act officially in its pursuit of police accountability, and work with the city controller and the commission on human relations. It requires all officers and employees to participate in investigations conducted by the CPRB, and provides protection for sitting CPRB members from the mayor from removing a board member at will.
“If an officer fails to cooperate, that can be construed as just cause for dismissal,” Beth Pittinger, director of the CPRB, said. “This is what democracy in action looks like … it’s worthy of consideration of city voters.”
Patience is key
Wolf said that because of circumstances, this election is going to be different than previous ones.
“Counting ballots and tallying the results — that’s going to be different,” he said. “We’ve known for months that county election workers would need additional time to count the mail in ballots this year.”
Pre-canvassing — opening the ballots before Election Day, but not counting them until Election Day — is what Wolf called a “simple step” that would have “cost nothing, fixed problems and it was supported by counties, and it was even supported by former governor Tom Ridge.”
“But Legislative Republicans chose not to act,” Wolf said. “And because of this inaction of Republican leaders, Pennsylvanians may not have results that we need on election night in every county. It may take longer than usual for counties to finish counting votes.”
Boockvar strongly urged every county to start pre-canvassing as soon as possible on Tuesday.
In response to a tweet Trump sent out early Tuesday morning, writing, “Philadelpiha [sic] MUST HAVE POLL WATCHERS!,” Boockvar noted that everyone can have poll watchers, and that “that hasn’t changed.”
“Voters need to ignore the disinformation,” Boockvar said. “There’s so much disinformation out there, people should not retweet, should not repost, this information is inaccurate. Pennsylvania has very clear laws, poll watchers are going to be appointed days before Election Day.”
Boockvar noted that the Department of State is working very closely with all 67 counties and that the first priority is to count every ballot accurately, and after that, “accurately as quickly as humanly possible.”
“Everybody’s going to have to be patient, and expect that it’s going to take a couple of days,” Boockvar said. “But I do expect that the overwhelming majority of ballots will be counted within a couple of days.”
Once a ballot is in, the vote is final — you cannot go back and change your mind.
“Please, no matter how you vote, exercise your right — make sure your voice is heard,” Boockvar said.