If you’re holding onto your absentee ballot until closer to the June 2 primary, Penny Whipple, director of Tioga County elections and voter registration, has one suggestion: don’t.

Instead, she recommends that voters mail it to her office immediately.

Act 77 of 2019 allows Pennsylvanians to vote using a mail-in ballot for any reason. As of last week, the county department had received and processed more than 3,000 applications for mail-in ballots, about 12% of the county’s 25,191 registered voters. Only one-third of those ballots have been returned.

That means there are 2,000 county residents who potentially won’t get a vote in the primary, said Whipple.

“You don’t need to wait until election day; you need to return your ballot now,” Whipple said. “If you wait and it comes in late, the votes don’t count. That’s what I’m afraid of, that they will miss their vote. I don’t want that to happen.”

Voter response has been high for the option of mail-in ballots, Whipple said. In the past, her office typically processed about 350 absentee ballots for a primary and up to 1,000 for a presidential election.

There has been some confusion as political parties and candidates have sent multiple applications to voters, some of whom completed multiple applications. Voters only need to apply once, Whipple said.

There’s still time to apply for a mail-in ballot, but not much, Whipple said. It takes days for the application, ballot and completed ballot to go back and forth by mail. With the Memorial Day holiday, Whipple is concerned that some ballots won’t arrive at her office in time.

“When they vote it, they should return it,” she said. “Then they don’t forget that it’s laying on the counter or dinner table. As soon as they get it and vote it, return it.”

Those people who have not applied for an absentee or mail-in ballot are still able to vote at the polls. Voters who were issued a mail-in ballot will not be able to vote at the polls on June 2.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 2. All of the county’s 41 voting jurisdictions will be open and staffed, Whipple said. The county will provide personal protective equipment for poll workers. It is recommended that voters follow the protocols recommended by the governor.

Whipple said any voter who applied for a mail-in ballot and has not received one should contact her office immediately at 570-724-8230.