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Voting By Mail: Knowing The Difference Between An Application And A Ballot

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - With every mail delivery these days questions seem to intensify about Pennsylvania's new mail-in ballot system.

One of the big questions is: "Why do I keep getting ballot applications when I never requested one?"

The answer is an organization called The Center for Voter Information.

It's an independent DC-based organization working to boost voter registration and participation.

CVI is sending multiple applications to voters adopting a theory if someone is reminded enough they will act, but it's important to note they are sending out ballot applications - not ballots.

The actual mail-in ballot operation in Allegheny County is humming says County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

"People are getting their ballots, they're getting their envelopes or signing their document and sending them back in so we've got, I think over 160,000, or so, have already returned their ballots received an email received documentation or confirmation that their ballot has been received," he said.

That doesn't mean it's all been smooth.

Some voters got the wrong ballot but the county has moved quickly to resolve those issues.

"This is a new process for, for most of us, there are going to be points of confusion or points of misunderstanding and sometimes people get the application, and they think it's the ballot," Fitzgerald said. "But it's the application for the ballot."

Between CVI and Allegheny County one couple received a total of 14 applications for a ballot.

"The county sent one to every single registered voter in the county, who hadn't already applied for one online, they could certainly be disregarded if they want to go vote in person or if they don't want to vote at all," Fitzgerald explained. "That's people's prerogative. There have been other groups, though, that both parties, different organizations they've been sending them to lots of people, and again it's just a piece of mail that people can disregard they don't have to do anything with it, but they can apply easily either online or with the ballot application that they've been given."

If you do apply for a mail-in ballot and get one Fitzgerald says you can still go to the polls on election day and vote.

"You can do that, but what you have to do is you have to take that ballot, along with the return envelope and the secrecy envelope to your polling place on election day," Fitzgerald said. "Give that to the judge of election, the judge of election can then spoil that ballot for you, and then issue you another ballot in which you can then vote."

WATCH: Difference Between An Application & A Ballot

Part of the confusion is that people are hearing that and know they have thrown out something official-looking because they were planning to vote in person.

In almost all of those cases what was thrown out was one of the many ballot applications, not the ballot itself.

Is Fitzgerald worried about the integrity of the mail-in balloting?

"I am not because this process first of all there's a paper trail," he said. "If you remember what we've been using for about the last 15 years was just a touchscreen, in which there was no paper trail with this paper trail system, you can always go back and do a recount because those ballots are still kept you also have signed a document if you mail in your ballot you've signed the envelope. That's your signature."

And he points out anyone who tries to vote more than once will be prosecuted for election fraud.

So if the envelope says ballot application - use it or ditch it - but if the envelope says "Official Election Ballot" on the envelope, it is your key to voting in the November 3rd Election.

You can also track your mail-in ballot status at but know that the system tends to lag behind a few days due to the heavy volume of business.

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