Haverford College junior David Edelman has helped dozens of fellow students apply for and cast mail ballots as part of a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote program led by his political science professor this year.
But he hasn’t yet voted himself, because Edelman — like an untold number of Pennsylvanians growing increasingly anxious as Election Day draws closer — still hasn’t received his mail ballot.
“I hope it doesn’t affect the outcome of the election, but I also would really like the counties to be able to process things faster so that we don’t have to worry about this,” said Edelman, 20, who applied for a mail ballot from Delaware County in early October.
Almost all outstanding ballots will likely reach voters in the coming days, county elections officials said. And even for those voters who never receive their requested ballots, there are options for them to vote.
“To be clear, we have not heard of a widespread problem with respect to this issue,” said Kevin Feeley, spokesperson for the Philadelphia City Commissioners, which run the city’s elections.
That hasn’t allayed the concerns of some voters who are still waiting on their ballots. Roxborough resident Johnny Osborne, 50, said he has been constantly refreshing the status of his mail ballot on the state’s election website.
“I’m a little anxious because it’s a very important election," said Osborne, who plans to vote for Joe Biden. “Whoever wins is going to change the course of the country.”
There are several reasons some voters may not have received ballots. They could have applied up for a mail ballot right at the deadline earlier this week, which would likely mean their ballot is on the way. Alternatively, it could have gotten lost in the mail.
And for a small number of people who voted by mail in the June primary and opted to automatically receive a mail ballot for the general election, a glitch with the state’s voter registration database delayed counties from sending out ballots. In Philadelphia, about 2,000 of the 126,000 primary voters who selected the option were impacted. Those ballots have now been sent out.
Due to U.S. Postal Service delays and the potential that the U.S. Supreme Court could throw out ballots received after Election Day, the state now recommends that voters who haven’t returned their ballots yet hand-deliver them in person at a drop box or county elections office, rather than putting them in the mail.
Voters waiting for ballots have a few options. They can simply wait for their ballots to arrive, and return them to a drop box or their county elections office. Voters who receive their ballots but have since decided to vote in person can cast ballots on Election Day by surrendering their mail ballots at their polling place and voting on polling machines.
The second route is to go to a county elections office between now and Election Day, and request a replacement ballot. Voters going this route should also submit their completed replacement ballot in drop boxes.
The final option is for voters who never receive their ballots. Those voters can go to their polling places on Election Day and cast provisional ballots. The provisional voting process allows counties to ensure voters haven’t cast two ballots.
Patrick Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia good-government group, said the bottom line is that voters can still vote.
Patrick said he is promoting a “golden rule” for those who have not cast a ballot by Election Day: “Do not leave [your polling place], if you’re a registered voter, until you cast a ballot, whether it’s on the polling machine or by provisional ballot.”
That’s what Connor Sherwood, 23, plans to do. The Point Breeze resident said he’s waiting for a mail ballot he applied for in early August.
If he receives it before Election Day, Sherwood, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but is undecided this year, said he will surrender it as his polling place and cast a ballot on a voting machine:
“I’m not worried that I won’t be able to vote," he said. "I think the issue going forward, maybe next election cycle, is: Will there be confidence in the mail-in ballot system?”