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Bucks County changes mail-in, absentee ballot envelopes


The Bucks County Board of Elections is hoping to reduce the number of rejected mail-in and absentee ballots due to a missing secrecy envelope.

In time for the May 16 primary election, the board approved adding a small hole that pierces the bottom corner of the exterior envelope and made the color of the inner secrecy ballot yellow.

The changes allow staff members to see if a ballot is “naked,” meaning the secrecy envelope is missing, if they see a white dot and not a yellow one through the hole. The voter can then be notified and given time to fix the issue, county officials said.

So-called “naked” ballots cannot be counted, according to state law, and, since the law also prohibits opening the ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day, voters did not know of their error and did not have an opportunity to correct it.

The result has been rejection of hundreds of ballots since mail-in voting was expanded in Pennsylvania, the county said. In the last primary, 225 ballots were unable to be counted and in the general election, 492 were eliminated. Ballots missing the secrecy envelope accounted for the largest number of otherwise legally received ballots to be rejected last year in Bucks, officials said.

In prior elections, the Board of Elections office mailed postcards to voters whose ballots arrived before Election Day missing a signature on the outside envelope. It will do the same this year for a ballot where the hole doesn’t show a yellow dot.

Voters may come to the main Board of Elections office in Doylestown until 8 p.m. on Election Day to resolve a ballot matter.

Mail-in and absentee ballots for the upcoming primary will be arriving at homes within the next few weeks, the county said.

Voters are encouraged to fill out and return ballots as soon as possible, being sure to follow the instructions and seal their ballot in both the yellow secrecy envelope and the outer envelope and sign the outer envelope. Ballots can be mailed or dropped off at an official County Ballot Box. Locations of the boxes will be announced in the coming weeks, said officials.

Bucks County will pay for return postage this year.

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