Pennsylvania to use coronavirus aid for prepaid postage on ballots in November election

Pennsylvania to use coronavirus aid for prepaid postage on ballots in November election
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Pennsylvania will use coronavirus relief funds allocated by Congress to pay for postage on mail-in ballots in the November general election.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar announced the plan Friday, saying that the “goal is to make voting as accessible, safe, and easy for eligible voters as possible." 

"Mail-in or absentee voting with prepaid postage means Pennsylvanians can vote from the comfort of their own home, without having to make a trip to the post office to buy a stamp, during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Boockvar said.

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In the CARES Act passed in March, Congress allocated $400 million to help states conduct elections during the pandemic. States have used those funds to implement safety measures at polling locations and increase mail-in voting initiatives.

Boockvar’s office told The Hill that staffers are not sure how much of the $14 million they received from Congress will be used to pay for postage until after the election, but said they do not expect for the cost to exceed $3 million.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill last year that made all voters in the state eligible for mail-in voting without having to provide an excuse. According to Boockvar, 1.5 million people cast ballots in the commonwealth's June 2 primary. 

Unlike the five states in the country that host completely mail-in elections by sending ballots to all registered voters, Pennsylvanians will still have to apply and get approved for a mail-in ballot. Under the plan, voters who apply for and receive a mail-in or absentee ballot in the mail will also get a postage-paid ballot-return envelope.

Seventeen other states cover postage for mail-in ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Voting by mail has been a hot topic in recent months, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE and his conservative allies have said, without evidence, that mail-in elections invite fraud. Trump was the subject of bipartisan backlash on Thursday for suggesting the November vote be delayed until predominantly in-person elections can be conducted safely.  

—Updated at 4:03 p.m.