The Pennsylvania Department of State just changed its voter registration form to include a mail-in ballot application — in the middle of an election cycle.
On Aug. 19, the Department of State combined the originally separate applications — voter registration and mail-in ballot — into one new form just 11 weeks before the general election.
While election officials say the change was made to simplify the process, county election officials are concerned the new form will create chaos and undermine voter confidence.
“We believe this proposed form is likely to stoke new and undue confusion, concern and skepticism among voters at a time when it is imperative that we rebuild trust in our election system,” Bucks County Elections Director Thomas Freitag wrote in a letter sent to the Department of State.
Freitag mentioned that the Department of State didn’t inform counties of this change until about three weeks before and that in his discussions with county officials across Pennsylvania, “the consensus against this move was so resounding that a workgroup was formed to provide meaningful feedback to the State.”
Dauphin County Elections Director Gerald Feaser Jr. echoed Freitag’s sentiments.
“This dramatic change in front-line service of voters with a dual registration/mail-in ballot application so close to a potentially pivotal election is a terrible idea. My concern is based on my experience — and the shared experience of the other 66 election directors across Pennsylvania — since Act 77 of 2019,” Feaser wrote.
Act 77 is the controversial election reform bill Republicans passed in 2019. It brought no-excuse mail-in balloting to Pennsylvania, among other changes.
Voters are also expressing concern about the new form. Lancaster County Elections Director Christa Miller told The Epoch Times that voters are unsure if they are registering to vote or registering for mail-in voting. The new form is now two pages, with the voter registration form on the front and the mail-in ballot application on the back. County officials are worried people registering to vote will be confused because the signature box is right below the mail-in balloting section.
Election officials will now have to process two different actions with one form, in what is sure to amount to a logistical headache. Originally, voter registration and mail-in ballot applications were filed separately, but now counties must process half of the new form first and then make a copy of the mail-in ballot portion and file that second. And election officials are not prepared for it.
“We were flooded with duplicate applications, and irate voters who received a mail-in ballot for the 2020 election who wanted to vote in person and were forced to cast a provisional ballot,” Feaser continued. “We lost large numbers of poll workers because of the threats and anger directed at them by voters who became permanent mail-in voters in error. By rushing this form through, without putting in place appropriate safeguards, the Department is putting political interests ahead of the safety of Pennsylvania’s election workers.”