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Voter assistance event helps ensure ballots are filled out correctly

More than 2.73 million voters have requested a mail-in ballot for the rapidly approaching presidential election, according to Open Data Pennsylvania.
Credit: WPMT
Elder law attorney Aviv Bliwas waits to assist voters fill out and seal their ballots at a voter assistance event Oct. 18.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A drive-up voter assistance event was held Oct. 18 at the Harrisburg Jewish Community Center.

More than 2.73 million voters have requested a mail-in ballot for the rapidly approaching presidential election, according to Open Data Pennsylvania. A quarter have already been returned.

As voters return their ballots, some have expressed confusion over the process.

Volunteers at the voter assistance event were available to go over voters’ ballots to ensure they were filled out and sealed correctly.

“It is safe and valid to vote by ballot and this is giving people an opportunity to alleviate some of those concerns,” said Jenn Ross, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg.

RELATED: 22 million Americans already voted in 2020 election, shattering records

Elder law attorney Aviv Bliwas of Family First Law came up with the idea for the event after she said some of her clients asked for help completing their ballots.

“I’ve stories from people I know that forgot to sign the application when they sent in their request for their ballot. I’ve heard of people putting their birth date instead of today’s date where the signature is,” Bliwas said. “So it’s just so easy to make those little mistakes and your vote doesn’t count.”

Ballots can be invalidated through several common mistakes.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in September that “naked ballots”—ballots mailed without the secrecy envelope—won’t count.

The Supreme Court will also soon decide if the signature of a ballot must match the voter’s signature of their voter registration.

“A lot of people are doing this for the very first time and we want to make sure that every voter knows all of the steps,” said Mary Garton, president of the Junior League of Harrisburg, which supplied volunteers for the event.

The steps to fill out a ballot are:

  • Open the ballot envelope, taking care not to rip the ballot or inner envelopes
  • Fill out the ballot
  • Put the ballot in the white inner secrecy envelope and seal the envelope
  • Put the secrecy envelope in the outer return envelope
  • Sign and date the voter declaration on the back of the return envelope
  • Return the ballot via mail, your county election office or an official drop box

If you accidentally spoil your ballot, you can request a new one from your county election office.

RELATED: Thousands of mail-in ballot applications rejected; the mistakes being made and how to ensure yours isn't rejected

Oct. 19 is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.