Election officials in Butler County, Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that many voters have yet to receive their requested mail-in ballots with just five days remaining until Election Day.
Though election officials told local media outlets that they believe the problem is with the U.S. Postal Service’s deliveries, the USPS told Newsweek that its top priority is delivering election mail promptly and said it is not aware of “significant” delivery problems in Butler County.
“Regarding mail sorting and delivery in Butler County, the Postal Service is unaware of any significant delays or issues and is in regular contact with the Board of Election as we work to locate and deliver ballots as they are presented to us,” the USPS said.
The county’s Bureau of Elections director, Aaron Sheasely, raised the problem with requested mail-in ballots during a meeting with county commissioners on Wednesday, according to the Butler Eagle. Sheasely told commissioners that the number of affected voters was unknown, but Commissioner Leslie Osche told Spotlight PA it could be thousands.
The last day voters in Pennsylvania could request mail-in ballots was Tuesday. All mail-in ballots are required to be either postmarked or hand-delivered to election officials by 8 p.m. local time on Election Day.
More voters are expected to vote by mail this election cycle than ever before due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Pennsylvania, more than 2.1 million voters have already returned their mail-in ballots, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project. On the project’s map, Butler appears as the county with the least number of mail-in ballots returned thus far, with just under a quarter of requested mail-in ballots returned to election officials by Thursday. At least half of mail-in voters in all of the state’s other 66 counties returned their ballots by Thursday, the project’s data showed.
Osche told KDKA-TV that county officials initially thought deliveries of mail-in ballots were simply delayed, “and that could still be the case,” she said. But as Election Day drew closer, county officials began to alert voters that they may have to make alternate plans to vote. “We changed our strategy and now have begun to tell folks that if they haven’t received a ballot, they still have multiple options,” Osche said. Those options include submitting a provisional ballot at their assigned polling location on November 3 or visiting the Bureau of Elections directly, according to the station.
Officials also mailed new ballots to affected voters and delivered some in person with help from local law enforcement, Osche told Spotlight PA.
Newsweek reached out to Osche and the Butler County Bureau of Elections for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Bookvar’s office told Newsweek that Bookvar will be providing updates on the election throughout the state during a news conference scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon.
Pennsylvania is one of six key swing states that are predicted to sway the outcome of the presidential election. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have both visited the state to campaign in the past week, and state polling averages compiled by FiveThirtyEight showed Biden with a 5.2-point lead on Thursday. Though Trump won the state by a narrow margin in 2016, he took Butler County by more than 36 points.
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