“Pennsylvania struggles with how — or if — to help voters fix their mail ballots”

Jonathan Lai for the Philly Inquirer:

Officials across Pennsylvania are trying to help voters fix mail ballots that would otherwise be disqualified because of technical mistakes in completing them, creating a patchwork of policies around how — or even whether — people are notified and given a chance to make their votes count.

Some counties are marking those ballots as received, the same as any other ballot, which gives voters no indication there’s a problem. Some are marking them as canceled, as the state says to do, which sends voters warning emails and updates the online ballot status tool, but doesn’t notify voters without email addresses on file.

Still others try to reach voters directly, including by mail, phone, or email — and at least one county mails the actual flawed ballots back to voters.

The Pennsylvania Department of State, which oversees elections, provided some direction Sunday, telling counties to mark ballots as canceled if they have clear flaws, such as missing voters’ signatures, or are “naked ballots” without the required inner secrecy envelopes. Those ballots have to be rejected when votes are counted beginning on Election Day.

But the state left it to counties to decide how aggressive to be in trying to contact voters to help them fix their ballots — or “cure” them, in election jargon. And some counties aren’t planning to follow the state’s instructions. Officials in Montgomery and Centre Counties, for example, won’t cancel flawed ballots because they want voters to be able to fix them. Allegheny County mails flawed ballots right back to voters, never canceling them nor marking them in the system at all.

The state also fumbled how canceled ballots are handled in the system, which initially led to voters receiving emails with inaccurate information.

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