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2021 News

Renewal Letters and Forms Sent to Bucks Mail-In Voters for 2021 Elections

February 6, 2021

Media contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

Renewal letters and mail-in ballot application forms began arriving this week in the mailboxes of approximately 133,000 Bucks County residents who last year had signed up for a permanent spot on the county’s vote-by-mail list.

The mass mailing was made necessary by a provision in Pennsylvania’s new voting laws that requires so-called “permanent” mail-in voters to re-up every year.

Failure to return the form means the recipient will not receive a mail-in ballot for the 2021 municipal primary and general election. Returning the form, or completing it online, means the voter will receive mail-in ballots for both 2021 elections.
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Under Act 77 of 2019, and Act 12 of 2020, even those voters who want to permanently receive mail-in ballots will only receive ballots for the year in which they submit their renewal form.

Or, as Bucks County Board of Elections Chair Bob Harvie put it this week, “permanent doesn’t necessarily mean permanent” under Pennsylvania election law. It’s among several provisions in the new laws that Harvie and his fellow county commissioners would like to see the state legislature change.

“It’s a good law, but there needs to be some changes, and that’s certainly one of them,” Harvie said.

If nothing else, the annual renewal process will be costly and time-consuming. In January the commissioners approved a $13,095 contract with Graphcom of Gettysburg to print the letters and forms needed for Bucks County voters. The mailings, which began last weekend, cost an additional $18,000 in postage.

Along with those expenses, Harvie said, will be the costs of the extra staff time it will take to process the wave of applications when they are returned to the Board of Elections Office, or when online applications are received.

“Our staff then has to go through all those applications just like they did last year, which took up tremendous amounts of time and a huge amount of effort on the part of the staff,” Harvie said. Unless the law changes to eliminate the annual renewal process, he said, the state should provide funding to counties for their added costs.

Harvie said this week’s mailings also are expected to confuse some voters who thought they only had to register once for mail-in ballots.

“We’ve already reached out to both of the political parties here in Bucks to make them aware so that when they start getting questions at their headquarters about why people are getting these in the mail they understand it’s a state requirement, something we have to do, and no one’s trying to disenfranchise them,” Harvie said.

In anticipation of some confusion among residents statewide who receive the mailings from their counties, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania created a short video to help explain the mailings. The CCAP video can be viewed here.