Pennsylvania will soon allow voters to apply online for an absentee ballot, a move that proponents say will make voting more accessible for commonwealth residents.
When applicants complete an online application, the information is forwarded to the appropriate county elections office for processing.
The new option will be available starting with the Nov. 5 election. Voters must mail or hand-deliver their completed ballot to their county election office by 5 p.m. on Nov. 1.
“Applying for an absentee ballot online will make the process faster and more accessible for thousands of voters,” Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said in a news release. “This builds on the option to register to vote online which Pennsylvania launched four years ago and it will provide an easier way for people to exercise their right to vote.”
In August 2015, Wolf launched an online voter registration option, and residents have submitted more than 1.4 million voter registration applications and changes online. Previously, voters’ only option was to complete a paper absentee ballot application and mail or hand-deliver it to their county election office for processing.
“Governor Wolf’s decision today is a good step toward increasing voter access to absentee ballots,” Jennifer Kocher, communications director for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said in a statement. “We still believe meaningful legislative changes such as the ones vetoed by the Governor earlier this year still need to be made in order to significantly improve the Commonwealth’s voting practices.”
The mobile-friendly site application site, votespa.com/applyabsentee, goes live on Sept. 16, the first day registered voters can apply for an absentee ballot for the Nov. 5 election.
State law allows registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot up until one week before an election. This year, the deadline is 5 p.m. Oct. 29, three days before voters must cast their absentee ballot.
Online absentee ballot applications will initially require a voter’s PennDOT driver's license or ID number to be processed electronically. However, officials plan to amend the process, so applicants without a PennDOT number can use the system.
The system is currently accessible to all domestic Pennsylvania voters and will be available to military and overseas voters by 2020.
“This online application is our latest innovation to make voting more convenient and increase voter participation,” Kathy Boockvar, acting secretary of the commonwealth, said in a statement. “The deadlines set in the 1937 election code have become increasingly challenging to meet, and the ability to apply online will cut days from the process.”