BUCKS COUNTY, PA — Results of next week's primary elections in Bucks County could take up to a day to count due to a deluge of mail-in voting and other changes brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
"I think here in Bucks County and pretty much every county in Pennsylvania, it will take much longer than voters are used to ...," Bucks County Chief Clerk Gail Humphrey said Thursday. "We believe in Bucks County we will certainly be into the next day, probably afternoon-evening."
During an online news conference, Humphrey said Bucks County elections workers have handled roughly 100,000 applications for mail-in and absentee ballots for Tuesday's election. By comparison, the county had about 6,000 ballots by mail in the last presidential primary in 2016, she said.
"We have staff working three shifts a day, 16 hours a day, to try to process all the paper," Humphrey said.
To help handle what could be a deluge of mail-in votes, county elections officials are setting up three secured ballot boxes where residents may drop off their votes.
The move, county officials said, was prompted by statewide reports that surges in mail-in ballot requests could leave too little time for some voters to return their ballots in time to be counted in the June 2 primaries.
The boxes, which will be out from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, will be located at:
Lower Bucks Government Services Center, 7321 New Falls Rd., Levittown
Bucks County Administration Building, 55 E. Court St., Doylestown
Upper Bucks Government Services Center, 261 California Rd., Quakertown
Bucks County Sheriff’s deputies will guard the boxes in Levittown and Quakertown, while Bucks County security officers will guard the box in Doylestown. The lids of the boxes will be padlocked shut and the boxes will not be left unattended at any time.
Under state election law, voters must put their own ballots in the boxes and cannot bring ballots for relatives, friends or others. At 7 p.m. each day, the boxes will be removed by the deputies or officers and returned to the Board of Elections office, where the boxes will be unlocked and the ballots removed and secured.
State law allowed people to request a mail-in ballot as late as Tuesday. On that day alone, Humphrey said, Bucks County received about 3,000 applications.
"We are concerned that the ballots that go out tomorrow in the mail may not get to someone's home until June 1," she said. "That's why the ballot boxes, I think, will be really useful."
For those planning to vote in person on Tuesday, Bucks officials said they are taking precautions, including providing hand sanitizer, plexiglass screens, extra pencils, gloves and more at polling places. They are asking that people wear their own masks, but masks will be available for those who don't have one.
"Not everyone loves to wear masks all the time. I understand that," said Dr. David Damsker, director of the Bucks County Department of Health. "But they're also mandatory for this election. We have to protect the people working at the polls."
If anyone demands to vote without wearing a mask, poll workers will offer them a provisional ballot, which will "tighten down on their interactions with other folks," according to Humphrey, or ask that person to wait until there is no one else using the polls.
"We're warning that it may take that individual a little longer," she said.
Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Diane Ellis Marseglia said she's hopeful that people who have claimed they plan to demand to vote without a mask in the county are all talk.
"I think that that's a lot of bluster," Marseglia said. "People just post things on social media to get attention ... . This has nothing to do with your constitutional rights. This is about being a human being. It's simply your responsiblity."