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Quick action will be best insurance for mail-in ballots

Today is the first day in Pennsylvania for registered voters to apply for a mail-in ballot for the Nov. 3 general election.

While we urge voters to go to the polls in person on Nov. 3, we also understand that there are reasons that may cause hesitation for some people, particularly during the ongoing public health crisis. Those people may choose to use mail-in ballots — but they need to realize the potential consequences.

Indeed, concern over the use of mail-in ballots is building in many quarters. Critics of the process fall into two categories: Those who worry about voter fraud and those who insist many Americans may be “disenfranchised” by the system.

Fraud is something of a concern — but it is one election officials are taking steps to counter.

Failure of many ballots to be counted, not just in the race for president but also state legislators and Congress, is more worrisome.

If that concerns you, take heart. This is one potential problem that leaves voters squarely in the driver’s seat.

A significant number of mailed-in absentee ballots are not counted during any election in which they are employed. That has been so for many years, for various reasons. One is delays in Postal Service delivery. Election results cannot be delayed until there is no possibility late ballots may still be in post offices. States have deadlines for receiving them if they are to be counted.

Local and state election officials also have safeguards for delayed mail-in ballots, starting with a six-week period — from today until Oct. 27 — for voters to request ballots, receive them, fill them out and get them back by Election Day.

Applications may be delivered to the county Voter Services office in person or by U.S. Postal Service.

Voters should note that the ballots will need to be finalized before they are sent to individual homes. Once they receive their ballots, voters would be well-advised to fill them out and return them without too much delay.

Even if the Postal Service is — how to say this diplomatically? — less than expeditious in handling your ballot, chances are it still will arrive in time to be counted if you act quickly.

Read and follow the instructions. Ensure your handwriting can be read. Surely your vote is important enough to take a moment or two to get your ballot right.

No doubt mail-in ballots will be the subject of enormous controversy during weeks leading up to Election Day — and, sadly, afterward.

You need not be part of the mess. If you vote by mail, do so quickly and follow all the rules.

Do so, and you will provide the best insurance against being “disenfranchised” on Election Day.

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