HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania counties have processed about 283,000 applications for mail-in and absentee ballots, and nearly three times more applicants are from Democrats compared to Republicans.
The state’s primary has been moved back to June 2, so the numbers are likely to continue to climb.
The Department of State said 89,000 absentee ballot requests have already been processed, with the June 2 primary still seven weeks away. Four years ago, before mail-in balloting was allowed in the state, about 84,000 Pennsylvanians cast primary votes by absentee ballot.
Officials say concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak are driving interest in remote voting.
The Health Department said Wednesday that 63 new deaths from the coronavirus were reported over the past day, raising the total to 647.
Counties have already processed 195,000 requests for mail-in ballots under a state law passed last fall that permits them for any voter who requests one.
Pennsylvania has about 4.1 million registered Democrats and 3.3 million Republicans. Of the absentee and mail-in requests for the primary processed so far, about 209,000 are from Democrats and 73,000 from Republicans.
Department of State spokeswoman Wanda Murren said remote voting applications jumped after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued orders closing schools and businesses not considered essential to sustaining life.
“First of all, the mail-in option is brand new, and now, with the COVID-19 situation, people want to vote at home, and we’re encouraging that,” Murren said. “We really have no way of knowing what this will end up looking like.”
In a Wisconsin statewide judicial election held last week, preliminary results indicated absentee ballots accounted for about seven in 10 of all ballots cast, compared with 12% during a Wisconsin Supreme Court election last year.
Some of Pennsylvania’s most populous counties have begun asking about conducting the June 2 primary election entirely by mail amid fears the pandemic will pose a threat to poll workers and voters.