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Pennsylvania rejects 372K mail-in ballot applications following primary confusion: report

The Hill logo The Hill 10/17/2020 Jordan Williams
Pennsylvania rejects 372K mail-in ballot applications following primary confusion: report © Getty Pennsylvania rejects 372K mail-in ballot applications following primary confusion: report

Pennsylvania has rejected more than 370,000 applications for mail-in ballots, most of which were duplicate requests, according to a report by ProPublica and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The battleground state's election offices rejected 372,000 requests for mail-in ballots, according to the report. About 90 percent of the denied application requests were duplicates, and 1 in 5 requests have been rejected.

Voters in the Keystone State can indicate to election officials if they would like a mail-in ballot when they vote during their primary. And issues arose when voters duplicated those requests after asking for a ballot in the general election during the state's June 2 primary.

The report found that the majority of 372,000 voters whose requests were denied did not realize they had checked a box to be sent a ballot for the general election in November when they requested ballots for the June primary.

Voters have also been confused by unclear or inaccurate information on the state's ballot-tracking website and by a wave of information from political parties and get-out-the vote groups, according to the report.

The confusion has caused county offices across the state to hire temporary staff and work seven days a week to cope.

"The volume of calls we have been getting has been overwhelming," Marybeth Kuznik, elections director in Armstrong County, northeast of Pittsburgh, told ProPublica. "It has been almost like a denial of service attack at times because it seemed that sometimes all I could get done was answer the phone!"

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State told The Hill that it is working to provide additional voter education regarding the issue, and that voters who request a ballot will receive one.

"Ultimately, it is important to note that all voters on the permanent list will receive a ballot, even if they applied more than once," the spokesperson said, adding that the rejection notice does not cancel the initial application to the permanent list.

So far, more than 2.7 million ballots have been requested in Pennsylvania for the Nov. 3 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project, and 688,136 have been returned.

Mail-in ballots have become a hot-button issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, with many worried that in-person voting puts them at risk for infection.

President Trump and his allies however, have repeatedly claimed without evidence that voting by mail will lead to widespread voter fraud.

The fiasco marks the latest chapter in the 2020 election saga in Pennsylvania that has been rocked by the coronavirus.

Counties in Pennsylvania have been working around the clock to process ballots, and issues have also arisen at the county level. The Allegheny County Elections Division announced on Wednesday that it was resending 28,879 ballots after a printing error led to voters receiving incorrect ballots.

News of the rejected requests comes after Pennsylvania had to quickly ramp up mail-in voting last year after the state passed a law allowing people to vote by mail without providing a reason.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a 5-point lead over Trump in the state, according to a Hill/Harris poll released Friday.

--Updated on Oct. 20 at 9:36 a.m.

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