Mail-in ballot reminders issued for Luzerne County nursing and personal care homes

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

The Luzerne County Board of Elections is stepping up efforts to educate nursing and personal care homes about how mail-in ballots are handled.

The bipartisan Citizen Council recently unanimously approved a detailed question and answer sheet prepared by Council Member Alyssa Fusaro.

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Fusaro said she thought those facilities needed more detailed explanation and cleared the information with the county attorney’s office.

The following questions and answers have been approved by the board, but may also be of interest to others:

• Can I cast another voter’s ballot?

Yes, as long as you and the voter complete an authorization form, officially known as “Authorizing a Designated Agent to Assist You in Obtaining and/or Returning Your Absentee or Absentee Ballot”.

This form is available at www.dos.pa.gov/VotingElections.

• How many ballots can I return?

You can only return your own ballot and the ballots of voters for whom you are the designated agent. These voters must be from the same household.

• Can I return multiple ballots from different households?

No. You can only be a designated proxy for one household.

Example: Mr. and Mrs. Smith ask you to return their absentee ballots to them. He signs the designated agent form and gives it to you. The next day, your husband asks you to return his mail-in ballot. You can’t return his because you’re already a designated agent for Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

• Is it illegal to cast multiple absentee ballots without having a signed Designated Agent Form?

Yes

• Can I be an agent for several residents of an EHPAD or an EHPAD?

Yes, but ONLY if these residents live in the same room of a facility.

Pennsylvania Department of State guidelines state, “A “household” for the purposes of designating an officer does not include a long-term care facility. However, a couple sharing a room or apartment within an establishment may be considered part of the same household. This means that each resident who is unable to return their own ballot due to a disability must designate a different agent.

Although not in the board-approved question/answer, the state also suggested that facilities arrange for residents to deliver their own ballots to a U.S. Postal Service mailbox at the office. county electoral office or at a designated county drop box.

Fusaro said these requirements make it clear that there should be no instances of voters casting a large number of ballots.

Last year, the council received and reviewed drop box surveillance tapes to investigate a complaint about a woman, apparently from a nursing home, who dropped or attempted to drop multiple ballots at Penn Place. Building, owned by the county, in downtown Wilkes-Barre, officials said. This case was referred to the county attorney’s office and is still under investigation.

As decided at its April 27 meeting, the Elections Committee wanted the Elections Office to mail the new Q&A form along with a letter to nursing and personal care homes across the county prior to the county primary. May 17. However, the office, absorbed in other election preparations, was unable to send it before the primary, officials said.

County Electoral Officer Michael Susek said he would ensure it was mailed before the general election in November.

At the council’s request, the office sent a less detailed letter to nursing and personal care homes in the 116th legislative district ahead of the April 5 special election for state representative there. This letter informed them of the required proxy form and provided a copy of the form.

The county mailed more than 19,000 ballots to county voters who requested them for the May 17 primary.

Completed ballots must be received at the county election office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Voters can return their ballots by mail or drop them off at one of five county drop boxes inside the buildings. Drop box locations and times are posted under the Election Office link for the 2022 Primary Elections on luzernecounty.org.

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