With less than two weeks to go until the 2022 general election, we want to remind Montgomery County residents of the many ways they can exercise their right to vote. Whether you’re voting by mail or in person, our voter services office is here to help.

Beginning Saturday, October 29, there are twelve secure ballot boxes across the county where residents can return their mailed ballots. This is in addition to the satellite voting offices that are in Lansdale, Pottstown, Lower Merion and Willow Grove. Residents can apply for a mail-in ballot, pick it up, fill it out, and return it to a voter service officer.

The county’s job is to administer and conduct elections, and we take that responsibility very seriously.

However, the Election Code and election laws are determined at the state level by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor.

Act 77 was bipartisan legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2019 to allow no-excuse mail-in voting along with other voter-friendly election reforms. The state Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by Republican majorities. It was signed by a Democrat governor.

Act 77 allowed voting by mail without excuses for the first time in our state. Pennsylvania joins 27 other states and Washington, D.C., that allow voting by mail without an excuse. Eight states conduct their elections entirely by mail.

Act 77 went into effect in Pennsylvania during the 2020 primary, which was held during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as we have already stated, Law 77 was passed in 2019. He had nothing to do with the pandemic that began in March 2020. It hasn’t been enacted because of the pandemic and won’t go away until the General Assembly and the governor change the law.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court found the law constitutional. Under state law, voters have the right to vote by mail.

At recent meetings, comments were made regarding the use of mail-in ballot return boxes and the county was urged not to use them. It is true that the use of drop boxes is determined by counties. This is a widespread practice in many other states where voting by mail is more common than in Pennsylvania.

We fully support the use of secure ballot boxes for many reasons.

First, the state sets unrealistic deadlines for submitting applications for voting by mail. If a voter waits until the November 1 filing deadline, it is unlikely that the voter will be able to receive a ballot, fill it out, and return it via the US Postal Service, as ballots must be received by 8:00 PM on Election Day. Postmarks are not applied.

Second, Montgomery County is geographically large. There are locations where it may take a citizen up to an hour or more to get to our main voter service office in Norristown. The boxes simply allow voters to return their ballots directly to the county without using the US Postal Service.

Third, our drop boxes are staffed by voter education officers under video surveillance, and ballots are collected daily by county clerks. Ballots are delivered directly to the postal voting center and are registered within 24 hours of the return of the ballot notifying you that your vote has been received.

If you’re in favor of fewer people handling ballots, video surveillance of ballot distribution, and the peace of mind of direct delivery, you should be all for ballot drop boxes.

We support all measures that make voting more accessible and easier for voters. This includes making Election Day a national holiday or allowing early voting, which could increase voter turnout.

We must remember that there were people who, before Act 77, could not vote on Election Day because they did not meet the criteria for absentee voting.

It is our personal choice as it is every citizen’s personal choice by law to decide how they want to cast their own ballot.

As county commissioners, we will continue to uphold the law and work to ensure that every citizen’s vote counts no matter how they choose to vote.

Kenneth E. Lawrence is the chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Dr. Valerie A. Arkush is the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.