Days before the Pennsylvania deadline to return completed absentee ballots, hundreds of voters in Montgomery County are complaining that they have not yet received their absentee ballots in the mail.
Democrats and Republicans have expressed concern about the issue, and the GOP filed an emergency petition last week requesting an extension of the deadline to return completed absentee ballots because "a great number" had not been delivered. A county judge dismissed that request Monday.
"People were still calling us yesterday . . . saying they had applied weeks before that and still had not received their absentee ballots," Josh Arnold, executive director of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, said Wednesday.
Joe Foster, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, said his party, too, had been receiving phone calls from worried voters.
"We've been told that the ballots have all been sent out, they're caught up," Foster said. "I just hope that everybody gets their ballots."
County officials have said they received an "unprecedented demand" for absentee ballots this year but have sent out all ballots for approved applications. They said they had processed 29,392 applications.
Voters who have not received their ballots in the mail can go to the voter services office in Norristown to vote in person until 5 p.m. Friday, county spokeswoman Lorie Slass said.
Still, Arnold said his office has been getting 50 calls a day from voters who are concerned because they had not received their absentee ballots. And, he said, some elderly or housebound voters are unable to make it to the voter services office to vote.
In a news release this week, the Republican Party described the voter-services office as "plagued by major dysfunction."
Robert Sklaroff of Abington, a local Republican activist, filed an emergency petition last week asking a judge to allow voters to return completed absentee ballots until Election Day, instead of Friday. Sklaroff said in his petition that he requested an absentee ballot three weeks ago and had not yet received it. Senior Judge Emanuel A. Bertin dismissed the petition Monday after hearing oral arguments. Bertin ordered the county to immediately send out more absentee ballots, but declined to extend the deadline.
"We are current with absentee ballot requests," Slass said Wednesday.
Tracey Rauh of Collegeville said her daughters applied for absentee ballots because they recently moved for jobs in Florida and Massachusetts.
They submitted their applications in September, and have called several times to check on the status, Rauh said.
One of her daughters just received one. The other, in Florida, has not and contacted voter services on Wednesday.
"The woman just said, 'We hope you get it so you can overnight it to us,' " according to Rauh. "It makes you think, 'Really, I can't believe this.' "
Commissioner Valerie Arkoosh, who is also chairwoman of the board of elections, said last month that the county had waited weeks to print absentee ballots because the wording of a referendum question about judicial retirement age still was being argued in the courts.
"So we did wait as late as we could to get our absentee ballots printed," Arkoosh said.
But once the ballots were printed, officials said, they kept up with demand.
The voter-services office lost two high-ranking employees in recent weeks. Director Kelly Green resigned in September, followed by manager Andrea Knopf in October. County officials said they could not comment on personnel matters.
Lauren Lambrugo, the county's chief operating officer and clerk of the election board, is serving as interim voter services director. Karley Sisler, who worked in IT for the county, is now working full time with voter services until the election, Slass said.
"Our staff is amazing; they've been working really hard and we have a great leadership team in place," Slass said.
Arnold and other Republican officials said that they never had issues while Green, hired after Democrats took control of county government, was leading voter services.