Members of the Reading-Berks Association of REALTORS® (R-BAR) met with Berks County officials last Thursday to discuss the upcoming election and how the County is adapting to changes in how voters are able to cast their ballot in the upcoming Presidential election.
The group, which included Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt, Berks County Chief Administrative Officer Ronald Seaman, and R-BAR President Angela Tolosky, discussed mail-in voting, changes to in-person voting due to COVID-19, and the steps the County has taken to ensure a quick and accurate count of ballots on election night.
The 2020 presidential election will be the first general election to allow no-excuse mail-in voting since the passage of Act 77, a bipartisan voting reform bill which was signed into law late last year. While mail-in ballots make it easier to cast your vote, they require additional resources to ensure the vote count is tallied quickly. However, Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt, who serves as Chair of the Berks County Board of Elections, says Berks County is prepared for the challenge.
“As it stands right now, you cannot begin opening mail-in ballot envelopes until 7am on election day,” says Barnhardt, “Our goal is, with the large number of County employees working to get the envelopes opened, we can get the mail-in ballots in the system to coincide with the results from the voting machines.”
Barnhardt added that any ballots received by 5 p.m., Friday, November 6th will be accepted, so long as they have been postmarked by election day.
On in-person voting, Ronald Seaman stated that the County is paying for sanitization services for polling places, and that voters should wear masks and practice social distancing. He also discussed poll watchers, and the limits to what they can do. Candidates and political parties may appoint a limited number of poll watchers per district and monitor for potential issues on election day.
However, Seaman outlined several illegal activities which are considered voter intimidation, including:
- Photographing or videotaping voters
- Disseminating false or misleading election information
- Blocking the entrance to polling places
- Confronting, hovering, or directly speaking to voters
Barnhardt added that a handful of polling places were changed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Voters can check their polling location at https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/PollingPlaceInfo.aspx
REALTOR® Sharon Kehres, who serves as a Judge of Elections, stated that she was impressed with the amount of preparation that she and other election volunteers are given in advance of election day, and thanked Commissioner Barnhardt and Ronald Seaman for joining the webinar.
The full webinar is available to view on the R-BAR Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/realtorsinberks/videos/774315060086228