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Despite Concerns, Southwestern Pa. Voters Using Mail-In Ballots In Record Numbers

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- While Allegheny County struggles to correct 28,000 faulty mail ballots, officials are seeing mail-in voting in record numbers across southwestern Pennsylvania.

KDKA investigator Andy Sheehan reports it is exceeding all expectations, leading to concerns about whether the system can handle it.

RELATED STORY: Allegheny County To Reissue Corrected Ballots To County Voters After Nearly 30,000 Received Wrong Ballots

Candidates are still campaigning but voting is well underway. At the Allegheny County Office Building, voters have been dropping off their ballots while expressing confidence that their vote will be recorded and counted.

"I do feel secure about it. I'm glad it's still proceeding. People are beginning to have faith in it," said Mary Clayborn of Imperial.

The applications and ballots themselves have deluged election bureaus throughout the region. In Washington County, mail-in participation has exceeded projections and dwarfed the participation of the past.

mail in votes
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

These trays contain returned election ballots to be opened beginning on Election Day morning. In 2016, Washington County election officials processed about 5,000 absentee ballots. This year, they expect to process 50,000 absentee and mail-in ballots.

In fact, election bureaus now project that 50 percent of the voters or more will vote mail-in or absentee, leading to concerns they may not be able to handle the volume.

Washington County Elections Chief Melanie Ostrander says even with round-the-clock shifts, all ballots likely won't get counted until three days after the polls close. Still, the bureau will provide a running total, and she says voters should be confident in the reliability of the results.

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"We check every ballot. Voters are only voting once," Ostrander said.

While during this pandemic voters can vote by mail while not providing an excuse, Joe Mistick — who teaches election law at Duquesne University — believes it's here to stay.

"We have a good system here. This system will work in Pennsylvania, and it really is the future," said Mistick.

The system is already showing cracks, but that doesn't appear to be deterring voters from using it and trusting that it will hold together.

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